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Pritzel, Alexander


Fast deep reinforcement learning using online adjustments from the past

Neural Information Processing Systems

We propose Ephemeral Value Adjusments (EVA): a means of allowing deep reinforcement learning agents to rapidly adapt to experience in their replay buffer. EVA shifts the value predicted by a neural network with an estimate of the value function found by prioritised sweeping over experience tuples from the replay buffer near the current state. EVA combines a number of recent ideas around combining episodic memory-like structures into reinforcement learning agents: slot-based storage, content-based retrieval, and memory-based planning. We show that EVA is performant on a demonstration task and Atari games. Papers published at the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference.


Simple and Scalable Predictive Uncertainty Estimation using Deep Ensembles

Neural Information Processing Systems

Deep neural networks (NNs) are powerful black box predictors that have recently achieved impressive performance on a wide spectrum of tasks. Quantifying predictive uncertainty in NNs is a challenging and yet unsolved problem. Bayesian NNs, which learn a distribution over weights, are currently the state-of-the-art for estimating predictive uncertainty; however these require significant modifications to the training procedure and are computationally expensive compared to standard (non-Bayesian) NNs. We propose an alternative to Bayesian NNs that is simple to implement, readily parallelizable, requires very little hyperparameter tuning, and yields high quality predictive uncertainty estimates. Through a series of experiments on classification and regression benchmarks, we demonstrate that our method produces well-calibrated uncertainty estimates which are as good or better than approximate Bayesian NNs.


Deep Exploration via Bootstrapped DQN

Neural Information Processing Systems

Efficient exploration remains a major challenge for reinforcement learning (RL). Common dithering strategies for exploration, such as epsilon-greedy, do not carry out temporally-extended (or deep) exploration; this can lead to exponentially larger data requirements. However, most algorithms for statistically efficient RL are not computationally tractable in complex environments. Randomized value functions offer a promising approach to efficient exploration with generalization, but existing algorithms are not compatible with nonlinearly parameterized value functions. As a first step towards addressing such contexts we develop bootstrapped DQN.


Never Give Up: Learning Directed Exploration Strategies

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We propose a reinforcement learning agent to solve hard exploration games by learning a range of directed exploratory policies. We construct an episodic memory-based intrinsic reward using k-nearest neighbors over the agent's recent experience to train the directed exploratory policies, thereby encouraging the agent to repeatedly revisit all states in its environment. A self-supervised inverse dynamics model is used to train the embeddings of the nearest neighbour lookup, biasing the novelty signal towards what the agent can control. We employ the framework of Universal Value Function Approximators (UVFA) to simultaneously learn many directed exploration policies with the same neural network, with different trade-offs between exploration and exploitation. By using the same neural network for different degrees of exploration/exploitation, transfer is demonstrated from predominantly exploratory policies yielding effective exploitative policies. The proposed method can be incorporated to run with modern distributed RL agents that collect large amounts of experience from many actors running in parallel on separate environment instances. Our method doubles the performance of the base agent in all hard exploration in the Atari-57 suite while maintaining a very high score across the remaining games, obtaining a median human normalised score of 1344.0%. Notably, the proposed method is the first algorithm to achieve non-zero rewards (with a mean score of 8,400) in the game of Pitfall! without using demonstrations or hand-crafted features.


Targeted free energy estimation via learned mappings

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Free energy perturbation (FEP) was proposed by Zwanzig more than six decades ago as a method to estimate free energy differences, and has since inspired a huge body of related methods that use it as an integral building block. Being an importance sampling based estimator, however, FEP suffers from a severe limitation: the requirement of sufficient overlap between distributions. One strategy to mitigate this problem, called Targeted Free Energy Perturbation, uses a high-dimensional mapping in configuration space to increase overlap of the underlying distributions. Despite its potential, this method has attracted only limited attention due to the formidable challenge of formulating a tractable mapping. Here, we cast Targeted FEP as a machine learning (ML) problem in which the mapping is parameterized as a neural network that is optimized so as to increase overlap. We test our method on a fully-periodic solvation system, with a model that respects the inherent permutational and periodic symmetries of the problem. We demonstrate that our method leads to a substantial variance reduction in free energy estimates when compared against baselines.


Fast deep reinforcement learning using online adjustments from the past

Neural Information Processing Systems

We propose Ephemeral Value Adjusments (EVA): a means of allowing deep reinforcement learning agents to rapidly adapt to experience in their replay buffer. EVA shifts the value predicted by a neural network with an estimate of the value function found by prioritised sweeping over experience tuples from the replay buffer near the current state. EVA combines a number of recent ideas around combining episodic memory-like structures into reinforcement learning agents: slot-based storage, content-based retrieval, and memory-based planning. We show that EVA is performant on a demonstration task and Atari games.


Fast deep reinforcement learning using online adjustments from the past

Neural Information Processing Systems

We propose Ephemeral Value Adjusments (EVA): a means of allowing deep reinforcement learning agents to rapidly adapt to experience in their replay buffer. EVA shifts the value predicted by a neural network with an estimate of the value function found by prioritised sweeping over experience tuples from the replay buffer near the current state. EVA combines a number of recent ideas around combining episodic memory-like structures into reinforcement learning agents: slot-based storage, content-based retrieval, and memory-based planning. We show that EVA is performant on a demonstration task and Atari games.


Meta-Learning by the Baldwin Effect

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

The scope of the Baldwin effect was recently called into question by two papers that closely examined the seminal work of Hinton and Nowlan. To this date there has been no demonstration of its necessity in empirically challenging tasks. Here we show that the Baldwin effect is capable of evolving few-shot supervised and reinforcement learning mechanisms, by shaping the hyperparameters and the initial parameters of deep learning algorithms. Furthermore it can genetically accommodate strong learning biases on the same set of problems as a recent machine learning algorithm called MAML "Model Agnostic Meta-Learning" which uses second-order gradients instead of evolution to learn a set of reference parameters (initial weights) that can allow rapid adaptation to tasks sampled from a distribution. Whilst in simple cases MAML is more data efficient than the Baldwin effect, the Baldwin effect is more general in that it does not require gradients to be backpropagated to the reference parameters or hyperparameters, and permits effectively any number of gradient updates in the inner loop. The Baldwin effect learns strong learning dependent biases, rather than purely genetically accommodating fixed behaviours in a learning independent manner.


Generative Temporal Models with Spatial Memory for Partially Observed Environments

arXiv.org Machine Learning

In model-based reinforcement learning, generative and temporal models of environments can be leveraged to boost agent performance, either by tuning the agent's representations during training or via use as part of an explicit planning mechanism. However, their application in practice has been limited to simplistic environments, due to the difficulty of training such models in larger, potentially partially-observed and 3D environments. In this work we introduce a novel action-conditioned generative model of such challenging environments. The model features a non-parametric spatial memory system in which we store learned, disentangled representations of the environment. Low-dimensional spatial updates are computed using a state-space model that makes use of knowledge on the prior dynamics of the moving agent, and high-dimensional visual observations are modelled with a Variational Auto-Encoder. The result is a scalable architecture capable of performing coherent predictions over hundreds of time steps across a range of partially observed 2D and 3D environments.


Memory-based Parameter Adaptation

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Deep neural networks have excelled on a wide range of problems, from vision to language and game playing. Neural networks very gradually incorporate information into weights as they process data, requiring very low learning rates. If the training distribution shifts, the network is slow to adapt, and when it does adapt, it typically performs badly on the training distribution before the shift. Our method, Memory-based Parameter Adaptation, stores examples in memory and then uses a context-based lookup to directly modify the weights of a neural network. Much higher learning rates can be used for this local adaptation, reneging the need for many iterations over similar data before good predictions can be made. As our method is memory-based, it alleviates several shortcomings of neural networks, such as catastrophic forgetting, fast, stable acquisition of new knowledge, learning with an imbalanced class labels, and fast learning during evaluation. We demonstrate this on a range of supervised tasks: large-scale image classification and language modelling.