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The Fixed Points of Off-Policy TD
J. Zico Kolter

Tue Dec 13 01:44 AM -- 01:48 AM (PST) @ None

Off-policy learning, the ability for an agent to learn about a policy other than the one it is following, is a key element of Reinforcement Learning, and in recent years there has been much work on developing Temporal Different (TD) algorithms that are guaranteed to converge under off-policy sampling. It has remained an open question, however, whether anything can be said a priori about the quality of the TD solution when off-policy sampling is employed with function approximation. In general the answer is no: for arbitrary off-policy sampling the error of the TD solution can be unboundedly large, even when the approximator can represent the true value function well. In this paper we propose a novel approach to address this problem: we show that by considering a certain convex subset of off-policy distributions we can indeed provide guarantees as to the solution quality similar to the on-policy case. Furthermore, we show that we can efficiently project on to this convex set using only samples generated from the system. The end result is a novel TD algorithm that has approximation guarantees even in the case of off-policy sampling and which empirically outperforms existing TD methods.

Author Information

J. Zico Kolter (Carnegie Mellon University / Bosch Center for AI)

Zico Kolter is an Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and also serves as Chief Scientist of AI Research for the Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence. His work focuses on the intersection of machine learning and optimization, with a large focus on developing more robust, explainable, and rigorous methods in deep learning. In addition, he has worked on a number of application areas, highlighted by work on sustainability and smart energy systems. He is the recipient of the DARPA Young Faculty Award, and best paper awards at KDD, IJCAI, and PESGM.

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