skip to main content

Title: SUNRISE: A Simple Unified Framework for Ensemble Learning in Deep Reinforcement Learning
Off-policy deep reinforcement learning (RL) has been successful in a range of challenging domains. However, standard off-policy RL algorithms can suffer from several issues, such as instability in Qlearning and balancing exploration and exploitation. To mitigate these issues, we present SUNRISE, a simple unified ensemble method, which is compatible with various off-policy RL algorithms. SUNRISE integrates two key ingredients: (a) ensemble-based weighted Bellman backups, which re-weight target Q-values based on uncertainty estimates from a Q-ensemble, and (b) an inference method that selects actions using the highest upper-confidence bounds for efficient exploration. By enforcing the diversity between agents using Bootstrap with random initialization, we show that these different ideas are largely orthogonal and can be fruitfully integrated, together further improving the performance of existing off-policy RL algorithms, such as Soft Actor-Critic and Rainbow DQN, for both continuous and discrete control tasks on both low-dimensional and high-dimensional environments.
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
International Conference on Machine Learning
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Direct policy gradient methods for reinforcement learning are a successful approach for a variety of reasons: they are model free, they directly optimize the performance metric of interest, and they allow for richly parameterized policies. Their primary drawback is that, by being local in nature, they fail to adequately explore the environment. In contrast, while model-based approaches and Q-learning can, at least in theory, directly handle exploration through the use of optimism, their ability to handle model misspecification and function approximation is far less evident. This work introduces the the POLICY COVER GUIDED POLICY GRADIENT (PC- PG) algorithm, which provablymore »balances the exploration vs. exploitation tradeoff using an ensemble of learned policies (the policy cover). PC-PG enjoys polynomial sample complexity and run time for both tabular MDPs and, more generally, linear MDPs in an infinite dimensional RKHS. Furthermore, PC-PG also has strong guarantees under model misspecification that go beyond the standard worst case L infinity assumptions; these include approximation guarantees for state aggregation under an average case error assumption, along with guarantees under a more general assumption where the approximation error under distribution shift is controlled. We complement the theory with empirical evaluation across a variety of domains in both reward-free and reward-driven settings.« less
  2. Offline or batch reinforcement learning seeks to learn a near-optimal policy using history data without active exploration of the environment. To counter the insufficient coverage and sample scarcity of many offline datasets, the principle of pessimism has been recently introduced to mitigate high bias of the estimated values. While pessimistic variants of model-based algorithms (e.g., value iteration with lower confidence bounds) have been theoretically investigated, their model-free counterparts — which do not require explicit model estimation — have not been adequately studied, especially in terms of sample efficiency. To address this inadequacy, we study a pessimistic variant of Q-learning inmore »the context of finite-horizon Markov decision processes, and characterize its sample complexity under the single-policy concentrability assumption which does not require the full coverage of the state-action space. In addition, a variance-reduced pessimistic Q-learning algorithm is proposed to achieve near-optimal sample complexity. Altogether, this work highlights the efficiency of model-free algorithms in offline RL when used in conjunction with pessimism and variance reduction.« less
  3. Conveying complex objectives to reinforcement learning (RL) agents can often be difficult, involving meticulous design of reward functions that are sufficiently informative yet easy enough to provide. Human-in-the-loop RL methods allow practitioners to instead interactively teach agents through tailored feedback; however, such approaches have been challenging to scale since human feedback is very expensive. In this work, we aim to make this process more sample- and feedback-efficient. We present an off-policy, interactive RL algorithm that capitalizes on the strengths of both feedback and off-policy learning. Specifically, we learn a reward model by actively querying a teacher’s preferences between two clipsmore »of behavior and use it to train an agent. To enable off-policy learning, we relabel all the agent’s past experience when its reward model changes. We additionally show that pre-training our agents with unsupervised exploration substantially increases the mileage of its queries. We demonstrate that our approach is capable of learning tasks of higher complexity than previously considered by human-in-the-loop methods, including a variety of locomotion and robotic manipulation skills. We also show that our method is able to utilize real-time human feedback to effectively prevent reward exploitation and learn new behaviors that are difficult to specify with standard reward functions.« less
  4. In many real-world reinforcement learning (RL) problems, in addition to maximizing the objective, the learning agent has to maintain some necessary safety constraints. We formulate the problem of learning a safe policy as an infinite-horizon discounted Constrained Markov Decision Process (CMDP) with an unknown transition probability matrix, where the safety requirements are modeled as constraints on expected cumulative costs. We propose two model-based constrained reinforcement learning (CRL) algorithms for learning a safe policy, namely, (i) GM-CRL algorithm, where the algorithm has access to a generative model, and (ii) UC-CRL algorithm, where the algorithm learns the model using an upper confidencemore »style online exploration method. We characterize the sample complexity of these algorithms, i.e., the the number of samples needed to ensure a desired level of accuracy with high probability, both with respect to objective maximization and constraint satisfaction.« less
  5. A major challenge in real-world reinforcement learning (RL) is the sparsity of reward feedback. Often, what is available is an intuitive but sparse reward function that only indicates whether the task is completed partially or fully. However, the lack of carefully designed, fine grain feedback implies that most existing RL algorithms fail to learn an acceptable policy in a reasonable time frame. This is because of the large number of exploration actions that the policy has to perform before it gets any useful feedback that it can learn from. In this work, we address this challenging problem by developing anmore »algorithm that exploits the offline demonstration data generated by a sub-optimal behavior policy for faster and efficient online RL in such sparse reward settings. The proposed algorithm, which we call the Learning Online with Guidance Offline (LOGO) algorithm, merges a policy improvement step with an additional policy guidance step by using the offline demonstration data. The key idea is that by obtaining guidance from - not imitating - the offline data, LOGO orients its policy in the manner of the sub-optimal policy, while yet being able to learn beyond and approach optimality. We provide a theoretical analysis of our algorithm, and provide a lower bound on the performance improvement in each learning episode. We also extend our algorithm to the even more challenging incomplete observation setting, where the demonstration data contains only a censored version of the true state observation. We demonstrate the superior performance of our algorithm over state-of-the-art approaches on a number of benchmark environments with sparse rewards and censored state. Further, we demonstrate the value of our approach via implementing LOGO on a mobile robot for trajectory tracking and obstacle avoidance, where it shows excellent performance.« less