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DNA: Proximal Policy Optimization with a Dual Network Architecture

Matthew Aitchison · Penny Sweetser

Hall J (level 1) #308

Keywords: [ Noise Scale ] [ Mujoco ] [ Reinforcement Learning ] [ Deep Reinforcement Learning ] [ Procgen ] [ policy gradient ] [ Atari ]


This paper explores the problem of simultaneously learning a value function and policy in deep actor-critic reinforcement learning models. We find that the common practice of learning these functions jointly is sub-optimal due to an order-of-magnitude difference in noise levels between the two tasks. Instead, we show that learning these tasks independently, but with a constrained distillation phase, significantly improves performance. Furthermore, we find that policy gradient noise levels decrease when using a lower \textit{variance} return estimate. Whereas, value learning noise level decreases with a lower \textit{bias} estimate. Together these insights inform an extension to Proximal Policy Optimization we call \textit{Dual Network Architecture} (DNA), which significantly outperforms its predecessor. DNA also exceeds the performance of the popular Rainbow DQN algorithm on four of the five environments tested, even under more difficult stochastic control settings.

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