skip to main content

Title: Recursive Reinforcement Learning
Recursion is the fundamental paradigm to finitely describe potentially infinite objects. As state-of-the-art reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms cannot directly reason about recursion, they must rely on the practitioner's ingenuity in designing a suitable "flat" representation of the environment. The resulting manual feature constructions and approximations are cumbersome and error-prone; their lack of transparency hampers scalability. To overcome these challenges, we develop RL algorithms capable of computing optimal policies in environments described as a collection of Markov decision processes (MDPs) that can recursively invoke one another. Each constituent MDP is characterized by several entry and exit points that correspond to input and output values of these invocations. These recursive MDPs (or RMDPs) are expressively equivalent to probabilistic pushdown systems (with call-stack playing the role of the pushdown stack), and can model probabilistic programs with recursive procedural calls. We introduce Recursive Q-learning---a model-free RL algorithm for RMDPs---and prove that it converges for finite, single-exit and deterministic multi-exit RMDPs under mild assumptions.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2009022 2146563
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Koyejo, S; Mohamed, S.; Agarwal, A.; Belgrave, D.; Cho, K.; Oh, A.
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2022)
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Recursive calls over recursive data are useful for generating probability distributions, and probabilistic programming allows computations over these distributions to be expressed in a modular and intuitive way. Exact inference is also useful, but unfortunately, existing probabilistic programming languages do not perform exact inference on recursive calls over recursive data, forcing programmers to code many applications manually. We introduce a probabilistic language in which a wide variety of recursion can be expressed naturally, and inference carried out exactly. For instance, probabilistic pushdown automata and their generalizations are easy to express, and polynomial-time parsing algorithms for them are derived automatically. We eliminate recursive data types using program transformations related to defunctionalization and refunctionalization. These transformations are assured correct by a linear type system, and a successful choice of transformations, if there is one, is guaranteed to be found by a greedy algorithm. 
    more » « less
  2. We study model-free reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms for infinite-horizon average-reward Markov decision process (MDP), which is more appropriate for applications that involve continuing operations not divided into episodes. In contrast to episodic/discounted MDPs, theoretical understanding of model-free RL algorithms is relatively inadequate for the average-reward setting. In this paper, we consider both the online setting and the setting with access to a simulator. We develop computationally efficient model-free algorithms that achieve sharper guarantees on regret/sample complexity compared with existing results. In the online setting, we design an algorithm, UCB-AVG, based on an optimistic variant of variance-reduced Q-learning. We show that UCB-AVG achieves a regret bound $\widetilde{O}(S^5A^2sp(h^*)\sqrt{T})$ after $T$ steps, where $S\times A$ is the size of state-action space, and $sp(h^*)$ the span of the optimal bias function. Our result provides the first computationally efficient model-free algorithm that achieves the optimal dependence in $T$ (up to log factors) for weakly communicating MDPs, which is necessary for low regret. In contrast, prior results either are suboptimal in $T$ or require strong assumptions of ergodicity or uniformly mixing of MDPs. In the simulator setting, we adapt the idea of UCB-AVG to develop a model-free algorithm that finds an $\epsilon$-optimal policy with sample complexity $\widetilde{O}(SAsp^2(h^*)\epsilon^{-2} + S^2Asp(h^*)\epsilon^{-1}).$ This sample complexity is near-optimal for weakly communicating MDPs, in view of the minimax lower bound $\Omega(SAsp(^*)\epsilon^{-2})$. Existing work mainly focuses on ergodic MDPs and the results typically depend on $t_{mix},$ the worst-case mixing time induced by a policy. We remark that the diameter $D$ and mixing time $t_{mix}$ are both lower bounded by $sp(h^*)$, and $t_{mix}$ can be arbitrarily large for certain MDPs. On the technical side, our approach integrates two key ideas: learning an $\gamma$-discounted MDP as an approximation, and leveraging reference-advantage decomposition for variance in optimistic Q-learning. As recognized in prior work, a naive approximation by discounted MDPs results in suboptimal guarantees. A distinguishing feature of our method is maintaining estimates of value-difference between state pairs to provide a sharper bound on the variance of reference advantage. We also crucially use a careful choice of the discounted factor $\gamma$ to balance approximation error due to discounting and the statistical learning error, and we are able to maintain a good-quality reference value function with $O(SA)$ space complexity. 
    more » « less
  3. Abbott, Derek (Ed.)

    Human vision, thought, and planning involve parsing and representing objects and scenes using structured representations based on part-whole hierarchies. Computer vision and machine learning researchers have recently sought to emulate this capability using neural networks, but a generative model formulation has been lacking. Generative models that leverage compositionality, recursion, and part-whole hierarchies are thought to underlie human concept learning and the ability to construct and represent flexible mental concepts. We introduce Recursive Neural Programs (RNPs), a neural generative model that addresses the part-whole hierarchy learning problem by modeling images as hierarchical trees of probabilistic sensory-motor programs. These programs recursively reuse learned sensory-motor primitives to model an image within different spatial reference frames, enabling hierarchical composition of objects from parts and implementing a grammar for images. We show that RNPs can learn part-whole hierarchies for a variety of image datasets, allowing rich compositionality and intuitive parts-based explanations of objects. Our model also suggests a cognitive framework for understanding how human brains can potentially learn and represent concepts in terms of recursively defined primitives and their relations with each other.

    more » « less
  4. Piotr Faliszewski ; Viviana Mascardi (Ed.)
    Recent success in reinforcement learning (RL) has brought renewed attention to the design of reward functions by which agent behavior is reinforced or deterred. Manually designing reward functions is tedious and error-prone. An alternative approach is to specify a formal, unambiguous logic requirement, which is automatically translated into a reward function to be learned from. Omega-regular languages, of which Linear Temporal Logic (LTL) is a subset, are a natural choice for specifying such requirements due to their use in verification and synthesis. However, current techniques based on omega-regular languages learn in an episodic manner whereby the environment is periodically reset to an initial state during learning. In some settings, this assumption is challenging or impossible to satisfy. Instead, in the continuing setting the agent explores the environment without resets over a single lifetime. This is a more natural setting for reasoning about omega-regular specifications defined over infinite traces of agent behavior. Optimizing the average reward instead of the usual discounted reward is more natural in this case due to the infinite-horizon objective that poses challenges to the convergence of discounted RL solutions. We restrict our attention to the omega-regular languages which correspond to absolute liveness specifications. These specifications cannot be invalidated by any finite prefix of agent behavior, in accordance with the spirit of a continuing problem. We propose a translation from absolute liveness omega-regular languages to an average reward objective for RL. Our reduction can be done on-the-fly, without full knowledge of the environment, thereby enabling the use of model-free RL algorithms. Additionally, we propose a reward structure that enables RL without episodic resetting in communicating MDPs, unlike previous approaches. We demonstrate empirically with various benchmarks that our proposed method of using average reward RL for continuing tasks defined by omega-regular specifications is more effective than competing approaches that leverage discounted RL. 
    more » « less
  5. Krause, Andreas and (Ed.)
    General function approximation is a powerful tool to handle large state and action spaces in a broad range of reinforcement learning (RL) scenarios. However, theoretical understanding of non-stationary MDPs with general function approximation is still limited. In this paper, we make the first such an attempt. We first propose a new complexity metric called dynamic Bellman Eluder (DBE) dimension for non-stationary MDPs, which subsumes majority of existing tractable RL problems in static MDPs as well as non-stationary MDPs. Based on the proposed complexity metric, we propose a novel confidence-set based model-free algorithm called SW-OPEA, which features a sliding window mechanism and a new confidence set design for non-stationary MDPs. We then establish an upper bound on the dynamic regret for the proposed algorithm, and show that SW-OPEA is provably efficient as long as the variation budget is not significantly large. We further demonstrate via examples of non-stationary linear and tabular MDPs that our algorithm performs better in small variation budget scenario than the existing UCB-type algorithms. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first dynamic regret analysis in non-stationary MDPs with general function approximation. 
    more » « less