Imani, Ehsan, Graves, Eric, White, Martha

Policy gradient methods are widely used for control in reinforcement learning, particularly for the continuous action setting. There have been a host of theoretically sound algorithms proposed for the on-policy setting, due to the existence of the policy gradient theorem which provides a simplified form for the gradient. In off-policy learning, however, where the behaviour policy is not necessarily attempting to learn and follow the optimal policy for the given task, the existence of such a theorem has been elusive. In this work, we solve this open problem by providing the first off-policy policy gradient theorem. The key to the derivation is the use of emphatic weightings. We develop a new actor-critic algorithm—called Actor Critic with Emphatic weightings (ACE)—that approximates the simplified gradients provided by the theorem. We demonstrate in a simple counterexample that previous off-policy policy gradient methods—particularly OffPAC and DPG—converge to the wrong solution whereas ACE finds the optimal solution.

Ciosek, Kamil, Whiteson, Shimon

We propose expected policy gradients (EPG), which unify stochastic policy gradients (SPG) and deterministic policy gradients (DPG) for reinforcement learning. Inspired by expected sarsa, EPG integrates across the action when estimating the gradient, instead of relying only on the action in the sampled trajectory. We establish a new general policy gradient theorem, of which the stochastic and deterministic policy gradient theorems are special cases. We also prove that EPG reduces the variance of the gradient estimates without requiring deterministic policies and, for the Gaussian case, with no computational overhead. Finally, we show that it is optimal in a certain sense to explore with a Gaussian policy such that the covariance is proportional to the exponential of the scaled Hessian of the critic with respect to the actions. We present empirical results confirming that this new form of exploration substantially outperforms DPG with the Ornstein-Uhlenbeck heuristic in four challenging MuJoCo domains.

Ciosek, Kamil (University of Oxford) | Whiteson, Shimon (University of Oxford)

Imani, Ehsan, Graves, Eric, White, Martha

Policy gradient methods are widely used for control in reinforcement learning, particularly for the continuous action setting. There have been a host of theoretically sound algorithms proposed for the on-policy setting, due to the existence of the policy gradient theorem which provides a simplified form for the gradient. In off-policy learning, however, where the behaviour policy is not necessarily attempting to learn and follow the optimal policy for the given task, the existence of such a theorem has been elusive. In this work, we solve this open problem by providing the first off-policy policy gradient theorem. The key to the derivation is the use of emphatic weightings.

Imani, Ehsan, Graves, Eric, White, Martha

Policy gradient methods are widely used for control in reinforcement learning, particularly for the continuous action setting. There have been a host of theoretically sound algorithms proposed for the on-policy setting, due to the existence of the policy gradient theorem which provides a simplified form for the gradient. In off-policy learning, however, where the behaviour policy is not necessarily attempting to learn and follow the optimal policy for the given task, the existence of such a theorem has been elusive. In this work, we solve this open problem by providing the first off-policy policy gradient theorem. The key to the derivation is the use of emphatic weightings. We develop a new actor-critic algorithm--called Actor Critic with Emphatic weightings (ACE)--that approximates the simplified gradients provided by the theorem. We demonstrate in a simple counterexample that previous off-policy policy gradient methods--particularly OffPAC and DPG--converge to the wrong solution whereas ACE finds the optimal solution.