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Low-Precision Reinforcement Learning: Running Soft Actor-Critic in Half Precision
Johan Björck · Xiangyu Chen · Christopher De Sa · Carla Gomes · Kilian Weinberger

Tue Jul 20 09:00 PM -- 11:00 PM (PDT) @ None #None

Low-precision training has become a popular approach to reduce compute requirements, memory footprint, and energy consumption in supervised learning. In contrast, this promising approach has not yet enjoyed similarly widespread adoption within the reinforcement learning (RL) community, partly because RL agents can be notoriously hard to train even in full precision. In this paper we consider continuous control with the state-of-the-art SAC agent and demonstrate that a na\"ive adaptation of low-precision methods from supervised learning fails. We propose a set of six modifications, all straightforward to implement, that leaves the underlying agent and its hyperparameters unchanged but improves the numerical stability dramatically. The resulting modified SAC agent has lower memory and compute requirements while matching full-precision rewards, demonstrating that low-precision training can substantially accelerate state-of-the-art RL without parameter tuning.

Author Information

Johan Björck (Cornell)
Xiangyu Chen (Cornell University)
Christopher De Sa (Cornell)
Carla Gomes (Cornell University)
Kilian Weinberger (Cornell University)

Kilian Weinberger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Machine Learning under the supervision of Lawrence Saul and his undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford. During his career he has won several best paper awards at ICML, CVPR, AISTATS and KDD (runner-up award). In 2011 he was awarded the Outstanding AAAI Senior Program Chair Award and in 2012 he received an NSF CAREER award. He was elected co-Program Chair for ICML 2016 and for AAAI 2018. Kilian Weinberger's research focuses on Machine Learning and its applications. In particular, he focuses on learning under resource constraints, metric learning, machine learned web-search ranking, computer vision and deep learning. Before joining Cornell University, he was an Associate Professor at Washington University in St. Louis and before that he worked as a research scientist at Yahoo! Research in Santa Clara.

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