Optimistic Active Exploration of Dynamical Systems

Published: 21 Sept 2023, Last Modified: 02 Nov 2023NeurIPS 2023 posterEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Keywords: Active Exploration, Reinforcement Learning, Dynamical Systems
TL;DR: We study how to actively explore a dynamical system in an efficient manner.
Abstract: Reinforcement learning algorithms commonly seek to optimize policies for solving one particular task. How should we explore an unknown dynamical system such that the estimated model allows us to solve multiple downstream tasks in a zero-shot manner? In this paper, we address this challenge, by developing an algorithm -- OPAX -- for active exploration. OPAX uses well-calibrated probabilistic models to quantify the epistemic uncertainty about the unknown dynamics. It optimistically---w.r.t. to plausible dynamics---maximizes the information gain between the unknown dynamics and state observations. We show how the resulting optimization problem can be reduced to an optimal control problem that can be solved at each episode using standard approaches. We analyze our algorithm for general models, and, in the case of Gaussian process dynamics, we give a sample complexity bound and show that the epistemic uncertainty converges to zero. In our experiments, we compare OPAX with other heuristic active exploration approaches on several environments. Our experiments show that OPAX is not only theoretically sound but also performs well for zero-shot planning on novel downstream tasks.
Submission Number: 7371