Robust Reinforcement Learning on State Observations with Learned Optimal AdversaryDownload PDF

Sep 28, 2020 (edited Jan 25, 2021)ICLR 2021 PosterReaders: Everyone
  • Keywords: reinforcement learning, robustness, adversarial attacks, adversarial defense
  • Abstract: We study the robustness of reinforcement learning (RL) with adversarially perturbed state observations, which aligns with the setting of many adversarial attacks to deep reinforcement learning (DRL) and is also important for rolling out real-world RL agent under unpredictable sensing noise. With a fixed agent policy, we demonstrate that an optimal adversary to perturb state observations can be found, which is guaranteed to obtain the worst case agent reward. For DRL settings, this leads to a novel empirical adversarial attack to RL agents via a learned adversary that is much stronger than previous ones. To enhance the robustness of an agent, we propose a framework of alternating training with learned adversaries (ATLA), which trains an adversary online together with the agent using policy gradient following the optimal adversarial attack framework. Additionally, inspired by the analysis of state-adversarial Markov decision process (SA-MDP), we show that past states and actions (history) can be useful for learning a robust agent, and we empirically find a LSTM based policy can be more robust under adversaries. Empirical evaluations on a few continuous control environments show that ATLA achieves state-of-the-art performance under strong adversaries. Our code is available at
  • One-sentence Summary: We study the robustness of RL agents under perturbations on states and find that using an "optimal" adversary learned online in an alternating training manner can improve the robustness of agent policy.
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