Poster

Is RLHF More Difficult than Standard RL? A Theoretical Perspective

Yuanhao Wang · Qinghua Liu · Chi Jin

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1820
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Thu 14 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST

Abstract:

Reinforcement learning from Human Feedback (RLHF) learns from preference signals, while standard Reinforcement Learning (RL) directly learns from reward signals. Preferences arguably contain less information than rewards, which makes preference-based RL seemingly more difficult. This paper theoretically proves that, for a wide range of preference models, we can solve preference-based RL directly using existing algorithms and techniques for reward-based RL, with small or no extra costs. Specifically, (1) for preferences that are drawn from reward-based probabilistic models, we reduce the problem to robust reward-based RL that can tolerate small errors in rewards; (2) for general arbitrary preferences where the objective is to find the von Neumann winner, we reduce the problem to multiagent reward-based RL which finds Nash equilibria for factored Markov games under a restricted set of policies. The latter case can be further reduce to adversarial MDP when preferences only depend on the final state. We instantiate all reward-based RL subroutines by concrete provable algorithms, and apply our theory to a large class of models including tabular MDPs and MDPs with generic function approximation. We further provide guarantees when K-wise comparisons are available.

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