Mitigating Off-Policy Bias in Actor-Critic Methods with One-Step Q-learning: A Novel Correction Approach

Published: 13 Feb 2024, Last Modified: 13 Feb 2024Accepted by TMLREveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Abstract: Compared to on-policy counterparts, off-policy model-free deep reinforcement learning can improve data efficiency by repeatedly using the previously gathered data. However, off-policy learning becomes challenging when the discrepancy between the underlying distributions of the agent’s policy and collected data increases. Although the well-studied importance sampling and off-policy policy gradient techniques were proposed to compensate for this discrepancy, they usually require a collection of long trajectories and induce additional problems such as vanishing/exploding gradients or discarding many useful experiences, which eventually increases the computational complexity. Moreover, their generalization to either continuous action domains or policies approximated by deterministic deep neural networks is strictly limited. To overcome these limitations, we introduce a novel policy similarity measure to mitigate the effects of such discrepancy in continuous control. Our method offers an adequate single-step off-policy correction that is applicable to deterministic policy networks. Theoretical and empirical studies demonstrate that it can achieve a “safe” off-policy learning and substantially improve the state-of-the-art by attaining higher returns in fewer steps than the competing methods through an effective schedule of the learning rate in Q-learning and policy optimization.
Submission Length: Long submission (more than 12 pages of main content)
Assigned Action Editor: ~Caglar_Gulcehre1
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Submission Number: 1607