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Outline of OOPS-based Reinforcement Learning (OOPS-RL)

At any given time, a reinforcement learner [24] will try to find a policy (a strategy for future decision making) that maximizes its expected future reward. In many traditional reinforcement learning (RL) applications, the policy that works best in a given set of training trials will also be optimal in future test trials [55]. Sometimes, however, it won't. To see the difference between direct policy search (the topic of the previous sections) and future-oriented reinforcement learning (RL), consider an agent and two boxes. In the $n$-th trial the agent may open and collect the content of exactly one box. The left box will contain $100n$ Swiss Francs, the right box $2^n$ Swiss Francs, but the agent does not know this in advance. During the first 9 trials the optimal policy is ``open left box.'' This is what a good direct searcher should find, given the outcomes of the first 9 trials, although the policy suggested by the first 9 trials will turn out to be suboptimal in trial 10. A good reinforcement learner, however, should extract the underlying regularity in the reward generation process and predict the future reward, picking the right box in trial 10, without having seen it yet.

The first general, asymptotically optimal reinforcement learner is the recent AIXI model [19,21]. It is valid for a very broad class of environments whose reactions to action sequences (control signals) are sampled from arbitrary computable probability distributions, or even limit-computable probability distributions [57]. This means that AIXI is far more general than traditional RL approaches. However, while AIXI clarifies the theoretical limits of RL, it is not practically feasible, just like HSEARCH is not. From a pragmatic point of view, what we are really interested in is a reinforcement learner that makes optimal use of given, limited computational resources. In what follows, we will outline how to use OOPS-like bias-optimal methods as components of universal yet feasible reinforcement learners.

We need two OOPS modules. The first is called the predictor or world model. The second is an action searcher using the world model. The life of the entire system should consist of a sequence of cycles 1, 2, ... At each cycle, a limited amount of computation time will be available to each module. For simplicity we assume that during each cyle the system may take exactly one action. Generalizations to actions consuming several cycles are straight-forward though. At any given cycle, the system executes the following procedure:

  1. For a time interval fixed in advance, the predictor is first trained in bias-optimal fashion to find a better world model, that is, a program that predicts the inputs from the environment (including the rewards, if there are any), given a history of previous observations and actions. So the $n$-th task ($n=1,2,\ldots$) of the first OOPS module is to find (if possible) a better predictor than the best found so far.

  2. Once the current cycle's time for predictor improvement is used up, the current world model (prediction program) found by the first OOPS module will be used by the second module, again in bias-optimal fashion, to search for a future action sequence that maximizes the predicted cumulative reward (up to some time limit). That is, the $n$-th task ($n=1,2,\ldots$) of the second OOPS module will be to find a control program that computes a control sequence of actions, to be fed into the program representing the current world model (whose input predictions are successively fed back to itself in the obvious manner), such that this control sequence leads to higher predicted reward than the one generated by the best control program found so far.

  3. Once the current cycle's time for control program search is used up, we will execute the current action of the best control program found in step 2. Now we are ready for the next cycle.

The approach is reminiscent of an earlier, heuristic, non-bias-optimal RL approach based on two adaptive recurrent neural networks, one representing the world model, the other one a controller that uses the world model to extract a policy for maximizing expected reward [48]. The method was inspired by previous combinations of nonrecurrent, reactive world models and controllers [79,38,22].

At any given time, until which temporal horizon should the predictor try to predict? In the AIXI case, the proper way of treating the temporal horizon is not to discount it exponentially, as done in most traditional work on reinforcement learning, but to let the future horizon grow in proportion to the learner's lifetime so far [21]. It remains to be seen whether this insight carries over to OOPS-RL.

Despite the bias-optimality properties of OOPS for certain ordered task sequences, however, OOPS-RL is not necessarily the best way of spending limited time in general reinforcement learning situations. But it is possible to use OOPS as a sub-module of the recent, truly optimal, reinforcement learning Gödel machine mentioned in the next section.


next up previous
Next: Gödel Machine and OOPS Up: Limitations and Possible Extensions Previous: Fundamental Limitations of OOPS
Juergen Schmidhuber 2004-04-15

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