Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Reinforcement Learning 2

Moderator: Karol Hausman

Chat is not available.

Tue 20 July 7:00 - 7:20 PDT

Coach-Player Multi-agent Reinforcement Learning for Dynamic Team Composition

Bo Liu · Qiang Liu · Peter Stone · Animesh Garg · Yuke Zhu · Anima Anandkumar

In real-world multi-agent systems, agents with different capabilities may join or leave without altering the team's overarching goals. Coordinating teams with such dynamic composition is challenging: the optimal team strategy varies with the composition. We propose COPA, a coach-player framework to tackle this problem. We assume the coach has a global view of the environment and coordinates the players, who only have partial views, by distributing individual strategies. Specifically, we 1) adopt the attention mechanism for both the coach and the players; 2) propose a variational objective to regularize learning; and 3) design an adaptive communication method to let the coach decide when to communicate with the players. We validate our methods on a resource collection task, a rescue game, and the StarCraft micromanagement tasks. We demonstrate zero-shot generalization to new team compositions. Our method achieves comparable or better performance than the setting where all players have a full view of the environment. Moreover, we see that the performance remains high even when the coach communicates as little as 13% of the time using the adaptive communication strategy.

Tue 20 July 7:20 - 7:25 PDT

Tesseract: Tensorised Actors for Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning

Anuj Mahajan · Mikayel Samvelyan · Lei Mao · Viktor Makoviychuk · Animesh Garg · Jean Kossaifi · Shimon Whiteson · Yuke Zhu · Anima Anandkumar

Reinforcement Learning in large action spaces is a challenging problem. This is especially true for cooperative multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL), which often requires tractable learning while respecting various constraints like communication budget and information about other agents. In this work, we focus on the fundamental hurdle affecting both value-based and policy-gradient approaches: an exponential blowup of the action space with the number of agents. For value-based methods, it poses challenges in accurately representing the optimal value function for value-based methods, thus inducing suboptimality. For policy gradient methods, it renders the critic ineffective and exacerbates the problem of the lagging critic. We show that from a learning theory perspective, both problems can be addressed by accurately representing the associated action-value function with a low-complexity hypothesis class. This requires accurately modelling the agent interactions in a sample efficient way. To this end, we propose a novel tensorised formulation of the Bellman equation. This gives rise to our method Tesseract, which utilises the view of Q-function seen as a tensor where the modes correspond to action spaces of different agents. Algorithms derived from Tesseract decompose the Q-tensor across the agents and utilise low-rank tensor approximations to model the agent interactions relevant to the task. We provide PAC analysis for Tesseract based algorithms and highlight their relevance to the class of rich observation MDPs. Empirical results in different domains confirm the gains in sample efficiency using Tesseract as supported by the theory.

Tue 20 July 7:25 - 7:30 PDT

A New Formalism, Method and Open Issues for Zero-Shot Coordination

Johannes Treutlein · Michael Dennis · Caspar Oesterheld · Jakob Foerster

In many coordination problems, independently reasoning humans are able to discover mutually compatible policies. In contrast, independently trained self-play policies are often mutually incompatible. Zero-shot coordination (ZSC) has recently been proposed as a new frontier in multi-agent reinforcement learning to address this fundamental issue. Prior work approaches the ZSC problem by assuming players can agree on a shared learning algorithm but not on labels for actions and observations, and proposes other-play as an optimal solution. However, until now, this “label-free” problem has only been informally defined. We formalize this setting as the label-free coordination (LFC) problem by defining the label-free coordination game. We show that other-play is not an optimal solution to the LFC problem as it fails to consistently break ties between incompatible maximizers of the other-play objective. We introduce an extension of the algorithm, other-play with tie-breaking, and prove that it is optimal in the LFC problem and an equilibrium in the LFC game. Since arbitrary tie-breaking is precisely what the ZSC setting aims to prevent, we conclude that the LFC problem does not reflect the aims of ZSC. To address this, we introduce an alternative informal operationalization of ZSC as a starting point for future work.

Tue 20 July 7:30 - 7:35 PDT

Targeted Data Acquisition for Evolving Negotiation Agents

Minae Kwon · Siddharth Karamcheti · Mariano-Florentino Cuellar · Dorsa Sadigh

Successful negotiators must learn how to balance optimizing for self-interest and cooperation. Yet current artificial negotiation agents often heavily depend on the quality of the static datasets they were trained on, limiting their capacity to fashion an adaptive response balancing self-interest and cooperation. For this reason, we find that these agents can achieve either high utility or cooperation, but not both. To address this, we introduce a targeted data acquisition framework where we guide the exploration of a reinforcement learning agent using annotations from an expert oracle. The guided exploration incentivizes the learning agent to go beyond its static dataset and develop new negotiation strategies. We show that this enables our agents to obtain higher-reward and more Pareto-optimal solutions when negotiating with both simulated and human partners compared to standard supervised learning and reinforcement learning methods. This trend additionally holds when comparing agents using our targeted data acquisition framework to variants of agents trained with a mix of supervised learning and reinforcement learning, or to agents using tailored reward functions that explicitly optimize for utility and Pareto-optimality.

Tue 20 July 7:35 - 7:40 PDT

Inverse Constrained Reinforcement Learning

Shehryar Malik · Usman Anwar · Alireza Aghasi · Ali Ahmed

In real world settings, numerous constraints are present which are hard to specify mathematically. However, for the real world deployment of reinforcement learning (RL), it is critical that RL agents are aware of these constraints, so that they can act safely. In this work, we consider the problem of learning constraints from demonstrations of a constraint-abiding agent's behavior. We experimentally validate our approach and show that our framework can successfully learn the most likely constraints that the agent respects. We further show that these learned constraints are \textit{transferable} to new agents that may have different morphologies and/or reward functions. Previous works in this regard have either mainly been restricted to tabular (discrete) settings, specific types of constraints or assume the environment's transition dynamics. In contrast, our framework is able to learn arbitrary \textit{Markovian} constraints in high-dimensions in a completely model-free setting. The code is available at: \url{}.

Tue 20 July 7:40 - 7:45 PDT

Counterfactual Credit Assignment in Model-Free Reinforcement Learning

Thomas Mesnard · Theophane Weber · Fabio Viola · Shantanu Thakoor · Alaa Saade · Anna Harutyunyan · Will Dabney · Thomas Stepleton · Nicolas Heess · Arthur Guez · Eric Moulines · Marcus Hutter · Lars Buesing · Remi Munos

Credit assignment in reinforcement learning is the problem of measuring an action’s influence on future rewards. In particular, this requires separating skill from luck, i.e. disentangling the effect of an action on rewards from that of external factors and subsequent actions. To achieve this, we adapt the notion of counterfactuals from causality theory to a model-free RL setup. The key idea is to condition value functions on future events, by learning to extract relevant information from a trajectory. We formulate a family of policy gradient algorithms that use these future-conditional value functions as baselines or critics, and show that they are provably low variance. To avoid the potential bias from conditioning on future information, we constrain the hindsight information to not contain information about the agent's actions. We demonstrate the efficacy and validity of our algorithm on a number of illustrative and challenging problems.

Tue 20 July 7:45 - 7:50 PDT

Interactive Learning from Activity Description

Khanh Nguyen · Dipendra Misra · Robert Schapire · Miroslav Dudik · Patrick Shafto

We present a novel interactive learning protocol that enables training request-fulfilling agents by verbally describing their activities. Unlike imitation learning (IL), our protocol allows the teaching agent to provide feedback in a language that is most appropriate for them. Compared with reward in reinforcement learning (RL), the description feedback is richer and allows for improved sample complexity. We develop a probabilistic framework and an algorithm that practically implements our protocol. Empirical results in two challenging request-fulfilling problems demonstrate the strengths of our approach: compared with RL baselines, it is more sample-efficient; compared with IL baselines, it achieves competitive success rates without requiring the teaching agent to be able to demonstrate the desired behavior using the learning agent’s actions. Apart from empirical evaluation, we also provide theoretical guarantees for our algorithm under certain assumptions about the teacher and the environment.

Tue 20 July 7:50 - 7:55 PDT