Uncovering Surprising Behaviors in Reinforcement Learning via Worst-case Analysis

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Reinforcement learning agents are typically trained and evaluated according to their performance averaged over some distribution of environment settings. But does the distribution over environment settings contain important biases, and do these lead to agents that fail in certain cases despite high average-case performance? In this work, we consider worst-case analysis of agents over environment settings in order to detect whether there are directions in which agents may have failed to generalize. Specifically, we consider a 3D first-person task where agents must navigate procedurally generated mazes, and where reinforcement learning agents have recently achieved human-level average-case performance. By optimizing over the structure of mazes, we find that agents can suffer from catastrophic failures, failing to find the goal even on surprisingly simple mazes, despite their impressive average-case performance. Additionally, we find that these failures transfer between different agents and even significantly different architectures. We believe our findings highlight an important role for worst-case analysis in identifying whether there are directions in which agents have failed to generalize. Our hope is that the ability to automatically identify failures of generalization will facilitate development of more general and robust agents. To this end, we report initial results on enriching training with settings causing failure.
  • Keywords: Reinforcement learning, Adversarial examples, Navigation, Evaluation, Analysis
  • TL;DR: We find environment settings in which SOTA agents trained on navigation tasks display extreme failures suggesting failures in generalization.
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