Keywords: meta-learning, model-based, reinforcement learning, online learning, adaptation
Abstract: Humans and animals can learn complex predictive models that allow them to accurately and reliably reason about real-world phenomena, and they can adapt such models extremely quickly in the face of unexpected changes. Deep neural network models allow us to represent very complex functions, but lack this capacity for rapid online adaptation. The goal in this paper is to develop a method for continual online learning from an incoming stream of data, using deep neural network models. We formulate an online learning procedure that uses stochastic gradient descent to update model parameters, and an expectation maximization algorithm with a Chinese restaurant process prior to develop and maintain a mixture of models to handle non-stationary task distributions. This allows for all models to be adapted as necessary, with new models instantiated for task changes and old models recalled when previously seen tasks are encountered again. Furthermore, we observe that meta-learning can be used to meta-train a model such that this direct online adaptation with SGD is effective, which is otherwise not the case for large function approximators. We apply our method to model-based reinforcement learning, where adapting the predictive model is critical for control; we demonstrate that our online learning via meta-learning algorithm outperforms alternative prior methods, and enables effective continuous adaptation in non-stationary task distributions such as varying terrains, motor failures, and unexpected disturbances.