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Bootstrapped Representations in Reinforcement Learning

Charline Le Lan · Stephen Tu · Mark Rowland · Anna Harutyunyan · Rishabh Agarwal · Marc Bellemare · Will Dabney

Exhibit Hall 1 #202
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In reinforcement learning (RL), state representations are key to dealing with large or continuous state spaces. While one of the promises of deep learning algorithms is to automatically construct features well-tuned for the task they try to solve, such a representation might not emerge from end-to-end training of deep RL agents. To mitigate this issue, auxiliary objectives are often incorporated into the learning process and help shape the learnt state representation. Bootstrapping methods are today's method of choice to make these additional predictions. Yet, it is unclear which features these algorithms capture and how they relate to those from other auxiliary-task-based approaches. In this paper, we address this gap and provide a theoretical characterization of the state representation learnt by temporal difference learning (Sutton, 1988). Surprisingly, we find that this representation differs from the features learned by Monte Carlo and residual gradient algorithms for most transition structures of the environment in the policy evaluation setting. We describe the efficacy of these representations for policy evaluation, and use our theoretical analysis to design new auxiliary learning rules. We complement our theoretical results with an empirical comparison of these learning rules for different cumulant functions on classic domains such as the four-room domain (Sutton et al, 1999) and Mountain Car (Moore, 1990).

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