Revisiting Fundamentals of Experience Replay

Jul 12, 2020

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Experience replay is central to off-policy algorithms in deep reinforcement learning (RL), but there remain significant gaps in our understanding. We therefore present a systematic and extensive analysis of experience replay in Q-learning methods, focusing on two fundamental properties: the replay capacity and the ratio of learning updates to experience collected (replay ratio). Our additive and ablative studies upend conventional wisdom around experience replay - greater capacity is found to substantially increase the performance of certain algorithms, while leaving others unaffected. Counter-intuitively we show that theoretically ungrounded, uncorrected n-step returns are uniquely beneficial while other techniques confer limited benefit for sifting through larger memory. Separately by directly controlling the replay ratio we contextualize previous observations in the literature and empirically measure the importance across three deep RL algorithms. Finally, we conclude by testing a set of hypotheses on the nature of these performance benefits.

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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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