No-Regret Exploration in Goal-Oriented Reinforcement Learning

Jul 12, 2020

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Many popular reinforcement learning problems (e.g., navigation in a maze, some Atari games, mountain car) are instances of the episodic setting under its stochastic shortest path (SSP) formulation, where an agent has to achieve a goal state while minimizing the cumulative cost. Despite the popularity of this setting, the exploration-exploitation dilemma has been sparsely studied in general SSP problems, with most of the theoretical literature focusing on different problems (i.e., fixed-horizon and infinite-horizon) or making the restrictive loop-free SSP assumption (i.e., no state can be visited twice during an episode). In this paper, we study the general SSP problem with no assumption on its dynamics (some policies may actually never reach the goal). We introduce UC-SSP, the first no-regret algorithm in this setting, and prove a regret bound scaling as 𝒪( D S √( A D K)) after K episodes for any unknown SSP with S states, A actions, positive costs and SSP-diameter D, defined as the smallest expected hitting time from any starting state to the goal. We achieve this result by crafting a novel stopping rule, such that UC-SSP may interrupt the current policy if it is taking too long to achieve the goal and switch to alternative policies that are designed to rapidly terminate the episode.

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The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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