Stochastically Dominant Distributional Reinforcement Learning

Jul 12, 2020

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We describe a new approach for managing aleatoric uncertainty in the Reinforcement Learning paradigm. Instead of selecting actions according to a single statistic, we propose a distributional method based on the second-order stochastic dominance (SSD) relation. This compares the inherent dispersion of random returns induced by actions, producing a more comprehensive and robust evaluation of the environment's uncertainty. The necessary conditions for SSD require estimators to predict quality second moments. To accommodate this, we map the distributional RL problem to a Wasserstein gradient flow, treating the distributional Bellman residual as a potential energy functional. We propose a particle-based algorithm for which we prove optimality and convergence. Our experiments characterize the algorithm performance and demonstrate how uncertainty and performance are better balanced using SSD action selection than with other risk measures.

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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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