Reinforcement Learning 7

Moderator: Ian Osband

Tue 20 Jul 6 p.m. PDT — 7 p.m. PDT


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Tue 20 July 18:00 - 18:20 PDT

PEBBLE: Feedback-Efficient Interactive Reinforcement Learning via Relabeling Experience and Unsupervised Pre-training

Kimin Lee · Laura Smith · Pieter Abbeel

Conveying complex objectives to reinforcement learning (RL) agents can often be difficult, involving meticulous design of reward functions that are sufficiently informative yet easy enough to provide. Human-in-the-loop RL methods allow practitioners to instead interactively teach agents through tailored feedback; however, such approaches have been challenging to scale since human feedback is very expensive. In this work, we aim to make this process more sample- and feedback-efficient. We present an off-policy, interactive RL algorithm that capitalizes on the strengths of both feedback and off-policy learning. Specifically, we learn a reward model by actively querying a teacher's preferences between two clips of behavior and use it to train an agent. To enable off-policy learning, we relabel all the agent's past experience when its reward model changes. We additionally show that pre-training our agents with unsupervised exploration substantially increases the mileage of its queries. We demonstrate that our approach is capable of learning tasks of higher complexity than previously considered by human-in-the-loop methods, including a variety of locomotion and robotic manipulation skills. We also show that our method is able to utilize real-time human feedback to effectively prevent reward exploitation and learn new behaviors that are difficult to specify with standard reward functions.

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Tue 20 July 18:20 - 18:25 PDT

Uncertainty Weighted Actor-Critic for Offline Reinforcement Learning

Yue Wu · Shuangfei Zhai · Nitish Srivastava · Joshua M Susskind · Jian Zhang · Ruslan Salakhutdinov · Hanlin Goh

Offline Reinforcement Learning promises to learn effective policies from previously-collected, static datasets without the need for exploration. However, existing Q-learning and actor-critic based off-policy RL algorithms fail when bootstrapping from out-of-distribution (OOD) actions or states. We hypothesize that a key missing ingredient from the existing methods is a proper treatment of uncertainty in the offline setting. We propose Uncertainty Weighted Actor-Critic (UWAC), an algorithm that detects OOD state-action pairs and down-weights their contribution in the training objectives accordingly. Implementation-wise, we adopt a practical and effective dropout-based uncertainty estimation method that introduces very little overhead over existing RL algorithms. Empirically, we observe that UWAC substantially improves model stability during training. In addition, UWAC out-performs existing offline RL methods on a variety of competitive tasks, and achieves significant performance gains over the state-of-the-art baseline on datasets with sparse demonstrations collected from human experts.

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Tue 20 July 18:25 - 18:30 PDT

Keyframe-Focused Visual Imitation Learning

Chuan Wen · Jierui Lin · Jianing Qian · Yang Gao · Dinesh Jayaraman

Imitation learning trains control policies by mimicking pre-recorded expert demonstrations. In partially observable settings, imitation policies must rely on observation histories, but many seemingly paradoxical results show better performance for policies that only access the most recent observation. Recent solutions ranging from causal graph learning to deep information bottlenecks have shown promising results, but failed to scale to realistic settings such as visual imitation. We propose a solution that outperforms these prior approaches by upweighting demonstration keyframes corresponding to expert action changepoints. This simple approach easily scales to complex visual imitation settings. Our experimental results demonstrate consistent performance improvements over all baselines on image-based Gym MuJoCo continuous control tasks. Finally, on the CARLA photorealistic vision-based urban driving simulator, we resolve a long-standing issue in behavioral cloning for driving by demonstrating effective imitation from observation histories. Supplementary materials and code at: \url{}.

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Tue 20 July 18:30 - 18:35 PDT

Learning and Planning in Average-Reward Markov Decision Processes

Yi Wan · Abhishek Naik · Richard Sutton

We introduce learning and planning algorithms for average-reward MDPs, including 1) the first general proven-convergent off-policy model-free control algorithm without reference states, 2) the first proven-convergent off-policy model-free prediction algorithm, and 3) the first off-policy learning algorithm that converges to the actual value function rather than to the value function plus an offset. All of our algorithms are based on using the temporal-difference error rather than the conventional error when updating the estimate of the average reward. Our proof techniques are a slight generalization of those by Abounadi, Bertsekas, and Borkar (2001). In experiments with an Access-Control Queuing Task, we show some of the difficulties that can arise when using methods that rely on reference states and argue that our new algorithms are significantly easier to use.

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Tue 20 July 18:35 - 18:40 PDT

Towards Better Laplacian Representation in Reinforcement Learning with Generalized Graph Drawing

Kaixin Wang · Kuangqi Zhou · Qixin Zhang · Jie Shao · Bryan Hooi · Jiashi Feng

The Laplacian representation recently gains increasing attention for reinforcement learning as it provides succinct and informative representation for states, by taking the eigenvectors of the Laplacian matrix of the state-transition graph as state embeddings. Such representation captures the geometry of the underlying state space and is beneficial to RL tasks such as option discovery and reward shaping. To approximate the Laplacian representation in large (or even continuous) state spaces, recent works propose to minimize a spectral graph drawing objective, which however has infinitely many global minimizers other than the eigenvectors. As a result, their learned Laplacian representation may differ from the ground truth. To solve this problem, we reformulate the graph drawing objective into a generalized form and derive a new learning objective, which is proved to have eigenvectors as its unique global minimizer. It enables learning high-quality Laplacian representations that faithfully approximate the ground truth. We validate this via comprehensive experiments on a set of gridworld and continuous control environments. Moreover, we show that our learned Laplacian representations lead to more exploratory options and better reward shaping.

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Tue 20 July 18:40 - 18:45 PDT

Low-Precision Reinforcement Learning: Running Soft Actor-Critic in Half Precision

Johan Björck · Xiangyu Chen · Christopher De Sa · Carla Gomes · Kilian Weinberger

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.

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Tue 20 July 18:45 - 18:50 PDT

Emphatic Algorithms for Deep Reinforcement Learning

Ray Jiang · Tom Zahavy · Zhongwen Xu · Adam White · Matteo Hessel · Charles Blundell · Hado van Hasselt

Off-policy learning allows us to learn about possible policies of behavior from experience generated by a different behavior policy. Temporal difference (TD) learning algorithms can become unstable when combined with function approximation and off-policy sampling---this is known as the ``deadly triad''. Emphatic temporal difference (ETD(λ)) algorithm ensures convergence in the linear case by appropriately weighting the TD(λ) updates. In this paper, we extend the use of emphatic methods to deep reinforcement learning agents. We show that naively adapting ETD(λ) to popular deep reinforcement learning algorithms, which use forward view multi-step returns, results in poor performance. We then derive new emphatic algorithms for use in the context of such algorithms, and we demonstrate that they provide noticeable benefits in small problems designed to highlight the instability of TD methods. Finally, we observed improved performance when applying these algorithms at scale on classic Atari games from the Arcade Learning Environment.

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Tue 20 July 18:50 - 18:55 PDT