Asynchronous stochastic approximations with asymptotically biased errors and deep multi-agent learning

Ramaswamy, Arunselvan, Bhatnagar, Shalabh, Quevedo, Daniel E. Machine Learning 

Asynchronous stochastic approximations are an important class of model-free algorithms that are readily applicable to multi-agent reinforcement learning (RL) and distributed control applications. When the system size is large, the aforementioned algorithms are used in conjunction with function approximations. In this paper, we present a complete analysis, including stability (almost sure boundedness) and convergence, of asynchronous stochastic approximations with asymptotically bounded biased errors, under easily verifiable sufficient conditions. As an application, we analyze the Policy Gradient algorithms and the more general Value Iteration based algorithms with noise. These are popular reinforcement learning algorithms due to their simplicity and effectiveness. Specifically, we analyze the asynchronous approximate counterpart of policy gradient (A2PG) and value iteration (A2VI) schemes. It is shown that the stability of these algorithms remains unaffected when the approximation errors are guaranteed to be asymptotically bounded, although possibly biased. Regarding convergence of A2VI, it is shown to converge to a fixed point of the perturbed Bellman operator when balanced step-sizes are used. Further, a relationship between these fixed points and the approximation errors is established. A similar analysis for A2PG is also presented.

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