Learning values across many orders of magnitude

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

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Hado P. van Hasselt, Arthur Guez, Arthur Guez, Matteo Hessel, Volodymyr Mnih, David Silver


Most learning algorithms are not invariant to the scale of the signal that is being approximated. We propose to adaptively normalize the targets used in the learning updates. This is important in value-based reinforcement learning, where the magnitude of appropriate value approximations can change over time when we update the policy of behavior. Our main motivation is prior work on learning to play Atari games, where the rewards were clipped to a predetermined range. This clipping facilitates learning across many different games with a single learning algorithm, but a clipped reward function can result in qualitatively different behavior. Using adaptive normalization we can remove this domain-specific heuristic without diminishing overall performance.