Reward Propagation Using Graph Convolutional Networks

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

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Martin Klissarov, Doina Precup


Potential-based reward shaping provides an approach for designing good reward functions, with the purpose of speeding up learning. However, automatically finding potential functions for complex environments is a difficult problem (in fact, of the same difficulty as learning a value function from scratch). We propose a new framework for learning potential functions by leveraging ideas from graph representation learning. Our approach relies on Graph Convolutional Networks which we use as a key ingredient in combination with the probabilistic inference view of reinforcement learning. More precisely, we leverage Graph Convolutional Networks to perform message passing from rewarding states. The propagated messages can then be used as potential functions for reward shaping to accelerate learning. We verify empirically that our approach can achieve considerable improvements in both small and high-dimensional control problems.