Moderator: Pulkit Agrawal

Tue 20 Jul 6 a.m. PDT — 7 a.m. PDT

Abstract:

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Tue 20 July 6:00 - 6:20 PDT

(Oral)

Yingjie Fei · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang

We study function approximation for episodic reinforcement learning with entropic risk measure. We first propose an algorithm with linear function approximation. Compared to existing algorithms, which suffer from improper regularization and regression biases, this algorithm features debiasing transformations in backward induction and regression procedures. We further propose an algorithm with general function approximation, which features implicit debiasing transformations. We prove that both algorithms achieve a sublinear regret and demonstrate a trade-off between generality and efficiency. Our analysis provides a unified framework for function approximation in risk-sensitive reinforcement learning, which leads to the first sublinear regret bounds in the setting.

Tue 20 July 6:20 - 6:25 PDT

(Spotlight)

Zhang Zihan · Yuan Zhou · Xiangyang Ji

In this paper we consider the problem of learning an $\epsilon$-optimal policy for a discounted Markov Decision Process (MDP). Given an MDP with $S$ states, $A$ actions, the discount factor $\gamma \in (0,1)$, and an approximation threshold $\epsilon > 0$, we provide a model-free algorithm to learn an $\epsilon$-optimal policy with sample complexity $\tilde{O}(\frac{SA\ln(1/p)}{\epsilon^2(1-\gamma)^{5.5}})$ \footnote{In this work, the notation $\tilde{O}(\cdot)$ hides poly-logarithmic factors of $S,A,1/(1-\gamma)$, and $1/\epsilon$.} and success probability $(1-p)$. For small enough $\epsilon$, we show an improved algorithm with sample complexity $\tilde{O}(\frac{SA\ln(1/p)}{\epsilon^2(1-\gamma)^{3}})$. While the first bound improves upon all known model-free algorithms and model-based ones with tight dependence on $S$, our second algorithm beats all known sample complexity bounds and matches the information theoretic lower bound up to logarithmic factors.

Tue 20 July 6:25 - 6:30 PDT

(Spotlight)

Marin Vlastelica · Michal Rolinek · Georg Martius

Although model-based and model-free approaches to learning the control of systems have achieved impressive results on standard benchmarks, generalization to task variations is still lacking. Recent results suggest that generalization for standard architectures improves only after obtaining exhaustive amounts of data. We give evidence that generalization capabilities are in many cases bottlenecked by the inability to generalize on the combinatorial aspects of the problem. We show that, for a certain subclass of the MDP framework, this can be alleviated by a neuro-algorithmic policy architecture that embeds a time-dependent shortest path solver in a deep neural network. Trained end-to-end via blackbox-differentiation, this method leads to considerable improvement in generalization capabilities in the low-data regime.

Tue 20 July 6:30 - 6:35 PDT

(Spotlight)

Amir-massoud Farahmand · Mohammad Ghavamzadeh

The convergence rate of Value Iteration (VI), a fundamental procedure in dynamic programming and reinforcement learning, for solving MDPs can be slow when the discount factor is close to one. We propose modifications to VI in order to potentially accelerate its convergence behaviour. The key insight is the realization that the evolution of the value function approximations $(V_k)_{k \geq 0}$ in the VI procedure can be seen as a dynamical system. This opens up the possibility of using techniques from \emph{control theory} to modify, and potentially accelerate, this dynamics. We present such modifications based on simple controllers, such as PD (Proportional-Derivative), PI (Proportional-Integral), and PID. We present the error dynamics of these variants of VI, and provably (for certain classes of MDPs) and empirically (for more general classes) show that the convergence rate can be significantly improved. We also propose a gain adaptation mechanism in order to automatically select the controller gains, and empirically show the effectiveness of this procedure.

Tue 20 July 6:35 - 6:40 PDT

(Spotlight)

Alberto Maria Metelli · Giorgia Ramponi · Alessandro Concetti · Marcello Restelli

The reward function is widely accepted as a succinct, robust, and transferable representation of a task. Typical approaches, at the basis of Inverse Reinforcement Learning (IRL), leverage on expert demonstrations to recover a reward function. In this paper, we study the theoretical properties of the class of reward functions that are compatible with the expert’s behavior. We analyze how the limited knowledge of the expert’s policy and of the environment affects the reward reconstruction phase. Then, we examine how the error propagates to the learned policy’s performance when transferring the reward function to a different environment. We employ these findings to devise a provably efficient active sampling approach, aware of the need for transferring the reward function, that can be paired with a large variety of IRL algorithms. Finally, we provide numerical simulations on benchmark environments.

Tue 20 July 6:40 - 6:45 PDT

(Spotlight)

Wesley A Suttle · Kaiqing Zhang · Zhuoran Yang · Ji Liu · David N Kraemer

Ratio maximization has applications in areas as diverse as finance, reward shaping for reinforcement learning (RL), and the development of safe artificial intelligence, yet there has been very little exploration of RL algorithms for ratio maximization. This paper addresses this deficiency by introducing two new, model-free RL algorithms for solving cost-aware Markov decision processes, where the goal is to maximize the ratio of long-run average reward to long-run average cost. The first algorithm is a two-timescale scheme based on relative value iteration (RVI) Q-learning and the second is an actor-critic scheme. The paper proves almost sure convergence of the former to the globally optimal solution in the tabular case and almost sure convergence of the latter under linear function approximation for the critic. Unlike previous methods, the two algorithms provably converge for general reward and cost functions under suitable conditions. The paper also provides empirical results demonstrating promising performance and lending strong support to the theoretical results.

Tue 20 July 6:45 - 6:50 PDT

(Spotlight)

Daniel Brown · Jordan Schneider · Anca Dragan · Scott Niekum

As humans interact with autonomous agents to perform increasingly complicated, potentially risky tasks, it is important to be able to efficiently evaluate an agent's performance and correctness. In this paper we formalize and theoretically analyze the problem of efficient value alignment verification: how to efficiently test whether the behavior of another agent is aligned with a human's values? The goal is to construct a kind of "driver's test" that a human can give to any agent which will verify value alignment via a minimal number of queries. We study alignment verification problems with both idealized humans that have an explicit reward function as well as problems where they have implicit values. We analyze verification of exact value alignment for rational agents, propose and test heuristics for value alignment verification in gridworlds and a continuous autonomous driving domain, and prove that there exist sufficient conditions such that we can verify epsilon-alignment in any environment via a constant-query-complexity alignment test.