Reinforcement Learning for Generative AI: A Survey

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Yuanjiang Cao, Lina Yao, Julian McAuley, Quan Z. Sheng


Deep Generative AI has been a long-standing essential topic in the machine learning community, which can impact a number of application areas like text generation and computer vision. The major paradigm to train a generative model is maximum likelihood estimation, which pushes the learner to capture and approximate the target data distribution by decreasing the divergence between the model distribution and the target distribution. This formulation successfully establishes the objective of generative tasks, while it is incapable of satisfying all the requirements that a user might expect from a generative model. Reinforcement learning, serving as a competitive option to inject new training signals by creating new objectives that exploit novel signals, has demonstrated its power and flexibility to incorporate human inductive bias from multiple angles, such as adversarial learning, hand-designed rules and learned reward model to build a performant model. Thereby, reinforcement learning has become a trending research field and has stretched the limits of generative AI in both model design and application. It is reasonable to summarize and conclude advances in recent years with a comprehensive review. Although there are surveys in different application areas recently, this survey aims to shed light on a high-level review that spans a range of application areas. We provide a rigorous taxonomy in this area and make sufficient coverage on various models and applications. Notably, we also surveyed the fast-developing large language model area. We conclude this survey by showing the potential directions that might tackle the limit of current models and expand the frontiers for generative AI.

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