Abstract: In reinforcement learning (RL), many exploration methods explicitly promote stochastic policies, e.g., by adding an entropy bonus. We argue that exploration only matters in RL because the agent repeatedly encounters the same or similar states, so that it is beneficial to gradually improve the performance over the encounters; otherwise, the greedy policy would be optimal. Based on this intuition, we propose ReMax, an objective for RL whereby stochastic exploration arises as an emergent property, without adding any explicit exploration bonus. In ReMax, an episode is modified so that the agent can reset to previous states in the trajectory, and the agent’s goal is to maximize the best return in the trajectory tree. We show that this ReMax objective can be directly optimized with an unbiased policy gradient method. Experiments confirm that ReMax leads to the emergence of a stochastic exploration policy, and improves the performance compared to RL with no exploration bonus.
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