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Revisiting Peng's Q($\lambda$) for Modern Reinforcement Learning
Tadashi Kozuno · Yunhao Tang · Mark Rowland · Remi Munos · Steven Kapturowski · Will Dabney · Michal Valko · David Abel

Tue Jul 20 07:20 PM -- 07:25 PM (PDT) @
Off-policy multi-step reinforcement learning algorithms consist of conservative and non-conservative algorithms: the former actively cut traces, whereas the latter do not. Recently, Munos et al. (2016) proved the convergence of conservative algorithms to an optimal Q-function. In contrast, non-conservative algorithms are thought to be unsafe and have a limited or no theoretical guarantee. Nonetheless, recent studies have shown that non-conservative algorithms empirically outperform conservative ones. Motivated by the empirical results and the lack of theory, we carry out theoretical analyses of Peng's Q($\lambda$), a representative example of non-conservative algorithms. We prove that \emph{it also converges to an optimal policy} provided that the behavior policy slowly tracks a greedy policy in a way similar to conservative policy iteration. Such a result has been conjectured to be true but has not been proven. We also experiment with Peng's Q($\lambda$) in complex continuous control tasks, confirming that Peng's Q($\lambda$) often outperforms conservative algorithms despite its simplicity. These results indicate that Peng's Q($\lambda$), which was thought to be unsafe, is a theoretically-sound and practically effective algorithm.

Author Information

Tadashi Kozuno (University of Alberta)
Yunhao Tang (Columbia University)
Mark Rowland (DeepMind)
Remi Munos (DeepMind)
Steven Kapturowski (Deepmind)
Will Dabney (DeepMind)
Michal Valko (DeepMind / Inria / ENS Paris-Saclay)
Michal Valko

Michal is a machine learning scientist in DeepMind Paris, tenured researcher at Inria, and the lecturer of the master course Graphs in Machine Learning at l'ENS Paris-Saclay. Michal is primarily interested in designing algorithms that would require as little human supervision as possible. This means 1) reducing the “intelligence” that humans need to input into the system and 2) minimizing the data that humans need to spend inspecting, classifying, or “tuning” the algorithms. That is why he is working on methods and settings that are able to deal with minimal feedback, such as deep reinforcement learning, bandit algorithms, or self-supervised learning. Michal is actively working on represenation learning and building worlds models. He is also working on deep (reinforcement) learning algorithm that have some theoretical underpinning. He has also worked on sequential algorithms with structured decisions where exploiting the structure leads to provably faster learning. He received his Ph.D. in 2011 from the University of Pittsburgh under the supervision of Miloš Hauskrecht and after was a postdoc of Rémi Munos before taking a permanent position at Inria in 2012.

David Abel (DeepMind)

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