Ecological Reinforcement Learning

Sep 25, 2019 Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Reinforcement learning algorithms have been shown to effectively learn tasks in a variety of static, deterministic, and simplistic environments, but their application to environments which are characteristic of dynamic lifelong settings encountered in the real world has been limited. Understanding the impact of specific environmental properties on the learning dynamics of reinforcement learning algorithms is important as we want to align the environments in which we develop our algorithms with the real world, and this is strongly coupled with the type of intelligence which can be learned. In this work, we study what we refer to as ecological reinforcement learning: the interaction between properties of the environment and the reinforcement learning agent. To this end, we introduce environments with characteristics that we argue better reflect natural environments: non-episodic learning, uninformative ``fundamental drive'' reward signals, and natural dynamics that cause the environment to change even when the agent fails to take intelligent actions. We show these factors can have a profound effect on the learning progress of reinforcement learning algorithms. Surprisingly, we find that these seemingly more challenging learning conditions can often make reinforcement learning agents learn more effectively. Through this study, we hope to shift the focus of the community towards learning in realistic, natural environments with dynamic elements.
  • Code: https://anonymous.4open.science/r/292f3e8b-15f5-4b1a-84ec-dc233ae86cb4/
  • Keywords: non-episodic, environment analysis, reward shaping, curriculum learning
  • Original Pdf:  pdf
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