Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)
Nearly all state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms rely on error backpropagation, which is generally regarded as biologically implausible. An alternative way of training an artificial neural network is through treating each unit in the network as a reinforcement learning agent, and thus the network is considered as a team of agents. As such, all units can be trained by REINFORCE, a local learning rule modulated by a global signal that is more consistent with biologically observed forms of synaptic plasticity. Although this learning rule follows the gradient of return in expectation, it suffers from high variance and thus the low speed of learning, rendering it impractical to train deep networks. We therefore propose a novel algorithm called MAP propagation to reduce this variance significantly while retaining the local property of the learning rule. Experiments demonstrated that MAP propagation could solve common reinforcement learning tasks at a similar speed to backpropagation when applied to an actor-critic network. Our work thus allows for the broader application of teams of agents in deep reinforcement learning.