Actor-Expert: A Framework for using Q-learning in Continuous Action Spaces

  • Author / Creator
    Lim, Sungsu
  • Q-learning can be difficult to use in continuous action spaces, because a difficult optimization has to be solved to find the maximal action. Some common strategies have been to discretize the action space, solve the maximization with a powerful optimizer at each step, restrict the functional form of the action-values, or optimize a different entropy-regularized objective to learn a policy proportional to action-values. Such methods however, can prevent learning accurate action-values, be expensive to execute at each step, or find a potentially suboptimal policy.
    In this thesis, we propose a new policy search objective that facilitates using Q-learning and a new framework called Actor-Expert, that optimizes this objective. The Expert uses approximate Q-learning to update the action-values towards optimal action-values. The Actor iteratively learns the maximal actions over time for these changing action-values. We develop a Conditional Cross Entropy Method (CCEM) for the Actor, where such a global optimization approach facilitates use of generically parameterized action-values (Expert) with a separate policy (Actor). This method iteratively concentrates density around maximal actions, conditioned on state.
    We demonstrate in a toy environment that Actor-Expert with unrestricted action-value parameterization and efficient exploration mechanism succeeds while previous Q-learning methods fail. We also demonstrate that Actor-Expert performs as well as or better than previous Q-learning methods on benchmark continuous-action environments. We also show that it is comparable against Actor-Critic baselines, suggesting a new distinction among methods that learn both value function and policy: learning action-values of the current policy or (optimal) action-values decoupled from the policy.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
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