Apr 14, 2021
Reinforcement learning algorithms typically assume rewards to be sampled from light-tailed distributions, such as Gaussian or bounded. However, a wide variety of real-world systems generate rewards that follow heavy-tailed distributions. We consider such scenarios in the setting of undiscounted reinforcement learning. By constructing a lower bound, we show that the difficulty of learning heavy-tailed rewards asymptotically dominates the difficulty of learning transition probabilities. Leveraging techniques from robust mean estimation, we propose Heavy-UCRL2 and Heavy-Q-Learning, and show that they achieve near-optimal regret bounds in this setting. Our algorithms also naturally generalize to deep reinforcement learning applications; we instantiate Heavy-DQN as an example of this. We demonstrate that all of our algorithms outperform baselines on both synthetic MDPs and standard RL benchmarks.
The 24th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics was held virtually from Tuesday, 13 April 2021 to Thursday, 15 April 2021.
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