Resmax: An Alternative Soft-Greedy Operator for Reinforcement LearningDownload PDF

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Sep 29, 2021 (edited Oct 06, 2021)ICLR 2022 Conference Blind SubmissionReaders: Everyone
  • Keywords: exploration, reinforcement learning, action-value methods, soft-greedy operator, softmax, mellowmax, epsilon-greedy, suboptimality gap
  • Abstract: Soft-greedy operators, namely $\varepsilon$-greedy and softmax, remain a common choice to induce a basic level of exploration for action-value methods in reinforcement learning. These operators, however, have a few critical limitations. In this work, we investigate a simple soft-greedy operator, which we call resmax, that takes actions proportionally to their suboptimality gap: the residual to the estimated maximal value. It is simple to use and ensures coverage of the state-space like $\varepsilon$-greedy, but focuses exploration more on potentially promising actions like softmax. Further, it does not concentrate probability as quickly as softmax, and so better avoids overemphasizing sub-optimal actions that appear high-valued during learning. Additionally, we prove it is a non-expansion for any fixed exploration hyperparameter, unlike the softmax policy which requires a state-action specific temperature to obtain a non-expansion (called mellowmax). We empirically validate that resmax is comparable to or outperforms $\varepsilon$-greedy and softmax across a variety of environments in tabular and deep RL.
  • One-sentence Summary: We propose resmax, a new soft-greedy operator for reinforment learning, which is a non-expansion and avoids overemphasis, making it a desirable replacement for the Boltzmann softmax operator.
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