Diffusing Policies : Towards Wasserstein Policy Gradient Flows

Pierre H. Richemond, Brendan Maginnis

Feb 15, 2018 (modified: Oct 25, 2017) ICLR 2018 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Policy gradients methods often achieve better performance when the change in policy is limited to a small Kullback-Leibler divergence. We derive policy gradients where the change in policy is limited to a small Wasserstein distance (or trust region). This is done in the discrete and continuous multi-armed bandit settings with entropy regularisation. We show that in the small steps limit with respect to the Wasserstein distance $W_2$, policy dynamics are governed by the heat equation, following the Jordan-Kinderlehrer-Otto result. This means that policies undergo diffusion and advection, concentrating near actions with high reward. This helps elucidate the nature of convergence in the probability matching setup, and provides justification for empirical practices such as Gaussian policy priors and additive gradient noise.
  • TL;DR: Linking Wasserstein-trust region entropic policy gradients, and the heat equation.
  • Keywords: Optimal transport, policy gradients, entropy regularization, reinforcement learning, heat equation, Wasserstein, JKO, gradient flows
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