NIPS Proceedingsβ

Bridging the Gap Between Value and Policy Based Reinforcement Learning

Part of: Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 30 (NIPS 2017) pre-proceedings


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Conference Event Type: Poster


We establish a new connection between value and policy based reinforcement learning (RL) based on a relationship between softmax temporal value consistency and policy optimality under entropy regularization. Specifically, we show that softmax consistent action values correspond to optimal entropy regularized policy probabilities along any action sequence, regardless of provenance. From this observation, we develop a new RL algorithm, Path Consistency Learning (PCL), that minimizes a notion of soft consistency error along multi-step action sequences extracted from both on- and off-policy traces. We examine the behavior of PCL in different scenarios and show that PCL can be interpreted as generalizing both actor-critic and Q-learning algorithms. We subsequently deepen the relationship by showing how a single model can be used to represent both a policy and the corresponding softmax state values, eliminating the need for a separate critic. The experimental evaluation demonstrates that PCL significantly outperforms strong actor-critic and Q-learning baselines across several benchmarks.