On Inductive Biases in Deep Reinforcement Learning

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Many deep reinforcement learning algorithms contain inductive biases that sculpt the agent's objective and its interface to the environment. These inductive biases can take many forms, including domain knowledge and pretuned hyper-parameters. In general, there is a trade-off between generality and performance when we use such biases. Stronger biases can lead to faster learning, but weaker biases can potentially lead to more general algorithms that work on a wider class of problems. This trade-off is relevant because these inductive biases are not free; substantial effort may be required to obtain relevant domain knowledge or to tune hyper-parameters effectively. In this paper, we re-examine several domain-specific components that modify the agent's objective and environmental interface. We investigated whether the performance deteriorates when all these fixed components are replaced with adaptive solutions from the literature. In our experiments, performance sometimes decreased with the adaptive components, as one might expect when comparing to components crafted for the domain, but sometimes the adaptive components performed better. We then investigated the main benefit of having fewer domain-specific components, by comparing the learning performance of the two systems on a different set of continuous control problems, without additional tuning of either system. As hypothesized, the system with adaptive components performed better on many of the tasks.
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