Forethought and Hindsight in Credit Assignment

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Veronica Chelu, Doina Precup, Hado P. van Hasselt


We address the problem of credit assignment in reinforcement learning and explore fundamental questions regarding the way in which an agent can best use additional computation to propagate new information, by planning with internal models of the world to improve its predictions. Particularly, we work to understand the gains and peculiarities of planning employed as forethought via forward models or as hindsight operating with backward models. We establish the relative merits, limitations and complementary properties of both planning mechanisms in carefully constructed scenarios. Further, we investigate the best use of models in planning, primarily focusing on the selection of states in which predictions should be (re)-evaluated. Lastly, we discuss the issue of model estimation and highlight a spectrum of methods that stretch from environment dynamics predictors to planner-aware models.