Curiosity in Hindsight: Intrinsic Exploration in Stochastic Environments

Published: 24 Apr 2023, Last Modified: 15 Jun 2023ICML 2023 PosterEveryoneRevisions
Abstract: Consider the problem of exploration in sparse-reward or reward-free environments, such as in Montezuma's Revenge. In the *curiosity-driven* paradigm, the agent is rewarded for how much each realized outcome differs from their predicted outcome. But using predictive error as intrinsic motivation is fragile in *stochastic environments*, as the agent may become trapped by high-entropy areas of the state-action space, such as a "noisy TV". In this work, we study a natural solution derived from structural causal models of the world: Our key idea is to learn representations of the future that capture precisely the *unpredictable* aspects of each outcome---which we use as additional input for predictions, such that intrinsic rewards only reflect the *predictable* aspects of world dynamics. First, we propose incorporating such hindsight representations into models to disentangle "noise" from "novelty", yielding *Curiosity in Hindsight*: a simple and scalable generalization of curiosity that is robust to stochasticity. Second, we instantiate this framework for the recently introduced BYOL-Explore algorithm as our prime example, resulting in the noise-robust BYOL-Hindsight. Third, we illustrate its behavior under a variety of different stochasticities in a grid world, and find improvements over BYOL-Explore in hard-exploration Atari games with sticky actions. Notably, we show state-of-the-art results in exploring Montezuma's Revenge with sticky actions, while preserving performance in the non-sticky setting.
Submission Number: 4191