Conference abstracts

Session B4 - Learning Theory

July 15, 17:00 ~ 17:25 - Room B6

A unified view of entropy-regularized Markov decision processes

Gergely Neu

Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain   -   gergely.neu@gmail.com

We propose a general framework for entropy-regularized average-reward reinforcement learning in Markov decision processes (MDPs). Our approach is based on extending the linear-programming formulation of policy optimization in MDPs to accommodate convex regularization functions. Our key result is showing that using the conditional entropy of the joint state-action distributions as regularization yields a dual optimization problem closely resembling the Bellman optimality equations. This result enables us to formalize a number of state-of-the-art entropy-regularized reinforcement learning algorithms as approximate variants of Mirror Descent or Dual Averaging, and thus to argue about the convergence properties of these methods. In particular, we show that the exact version of the TRPO algorithm of Schulman et al. (2015) actually converges to the optimal policy, while the entropy-regularized policy gradient methods of Mnih et al. (2016) may fail to converge to a fixed point. Finally, we illustrate empirically the effects of using various regularization techniques on learning performance in a simple reinforcement learning setup.

Joint work with Anders Jonsson (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain) and Vicenç Gómez (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain).

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