Divergence-Augmented Policy Optimization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Qing Wang, Yingru Li, Jiechao Xiong, Tong Zhang


In deep reinforcement learning, policy optimization methods need to deal with issues such as function approximation and the reuse of off-policy data. Standard policy gradient methods do not handle off-policy data well, leading to premature convergence and instability. This paper introduces a method to stabilize policy optimization when off-policy data are reused. The idea is to include a Bregman divergence between the behavior policy that generates the data and the current policy to ensure small and safe policy updates with off-policy data. The Bregman divergence is calculated between the state distributions of two policies, instead of only on the action probabilities, leading to a divergence augmentation formulation. Empirical experiments on Atari games show that in the data-scarce scenario where the reuse of off-policy data becomes necessary, our method can achieve better performance than other state-of-the-art deep reinforcement learning algorithms.