Constrained Markov Decision Processes via Backward Value Functions

Jul 12, 2020

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Although Reinforcement Learning (RL) algorithms have found tremendous success in simulated domains, they often cannot directly be applied to physical systems, especially in cases where there are hard constraints to satisfy (e.g. on safety or resources). In standard RL, the agent is incentivized to explore any behavior as long as it maximizes rewards, but in the real world, undesired behavior can damage either the system or the agent in a way that breaks the learning process itself. In this work, we model the problem of learning with constraints as a Constrained Markov Decision Process and provide a new on-policy formulation for solving it. A key contribution of our approach is to translate cumulative cost constraints into state-based constraints. Through this, we define a safe policy improvement method which maximizes returns while ensuring that the constraints are satisfied at every step. We provide theoretical guarantees under which the agent converges while ensuring safety over the course of training. We also highlight the computational advantages of this approach. The effectiveness of our approach is demonstrated on safe navigation tasks and in safety-constrained versions of MuJoCo environments, with deep neural networks.

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About ICML 2020

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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