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Discrete Compositional Representations as an Abstraction for Goal Conditioned Reinforcement Learning
Riashat Islam · Hongyu Zang · Anirudh Goyal · Alex Lamb · Kenji Kawaguchi · Xin Li · Romain Laroche · Yoshua Bengio · Remi Tachet des Combes


Goal-conditioned reinforcement learning (RL) is a promising direction for training agents that are capable of solving multiple tasks and reach a diverse set of objectives. How to \textit{specify} and \textit{ground} these goals in such a way that we can both reliably reach goals during training as well as generalize to new goals during evaluation remains an open area of research. Defining goals in the space of noisy, high-dimensional sensory inputs is one possibility, yet this poses a challenge for training goal-conditioned agents, or even for generalization to novel goals. We propose to address this by learning compositional representations of goals and processing the resulting representation via a discretization bottleneck, for coarser specification of goals, through an approach we call DGRL. We show that discretizing outputs from goal encoders through a bottleneck can work well in goal-conditioned RL setups, by experimentally evaluating this method on tasks ranging from maze environments to complex robotic navigation and manipulation tasks. Additionally, we show a theoretical result which bounds the expected return for goals not observed during training, while still allowing for specifying goals with expressive combinatorial structure.

Author Information

Riashat Islam (MILA/McGill)
Hongyu Zang (Beijing Institute of Technology)
Anirudh Goyal (Université de Montréal)
Alex Lamb (Universite de Montreal)
Kenji Kawaguchi (MIT)
Xin Li (Beijing Institute of Technology)
Romain Laroche (Microsoft Research)
Yoshua Bengio (Mila / U. Montreal)

Yoshua Bengio is Full Professor in the computer science and operations research department at U. Montreal, scientific director and founder of Mila and of IVADO, Turing Award 2018 recipient, Canada Research Chair in Statistical Learning Algorithms, as well as a Canada AI CIFAR Chair. He pioneered deep learning and has been getting the most citations per day in 2018 among all computer scientists, worldwide. He is an officer of the Order of Canada, member of the Royal Society of Canada, was awarded the Killam Prize, the Marie-Victorin Prize and the Radio-Canada Scientist of the year in 2017, and he is a member of the NeurIPS advisory board and co-founder of the ICLR conference, as well as program director of the CIFAR program on Learning in Machines and Brains. His goal is to contribute to uncover the principles giving rise to intelligence through learning, as well as favour the development of AI for the benefit of all.

Remi Tachet des Combes (Microsoft Research Montreal)

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