Models, code, and papers for "John Schulman":

Semi-Supervised Learning by Label Gradient Alignment

Feb 06, 2019
Jacob Jackson, John Schulman

We present label gradient alignment, a novel algorithm for semi-supervised learning which imputes labels for the unlabeled data and trains on the imputed labels. We define a semantically meaningful distance metric on the input space by mapping a point (x, y) to the gradient of the model at (x, y). We then formulate an optimization problem whose objective is to minimize the distance between the labeled and the unlabeled data in this space, and we solve it by gradient descent on the imputed labels. We evaluate label gradient alignment using the standardized architecture introduced by Oliver et al. (2018) and demonstrate state-of-the-art accuracy in semi-supervised CIFAR-10 classification.

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On First-Order Meta-Learning Algorithms

Oct 22, 2018
Alex Nichol, Joshua Achiam, John Schulman

This paper considers meta-learning problems, where there is a distribution of tasks, and we would like to obtain an agent that performs well (i.e., learns quickly) when presented with a previously unseen task sampled from this distribution. We analyze a family of algorithms for learning a parameter initialization that can be fine-tuned quickly on a new task, using only first-order derivatives for the meta-learning updates. This family includes and generalizes first-order MAML, an approximation to MAML obtained by ignoring second-order derivatives. It also includes Reptile, a new algorithm that we introduce here, which works by repeatedly sampling a task, training on it, and moving the initialization towards the trained weights on that task. We expand on the results from Finn et al. showing that first-order meta-learning algorithms perform well on some well-established benchmarks for few-shot classification, and we provide theoretical analysis aimed at understanding why these algorithms work.

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Equivalence Between Policy Gradients and Soft Q-Learning

Oct 14, 2018
John Schulman, Xi Chen, Pieter Abbeel

Two of the leading approaches for model-free reinforcement learning are policy gradient methods and $Q$-learning methods. $Q$-learning methods can be effective and sample-efficient when they work, however, it is not well-understood why they work, since empirically, the $Q$-values they estimate are very inaccurate. A partial explanation may be that $Q$-learning methods are secretly implementing policy gradient updates: we show that there is a precise equivalence between $Q$-learning and policy gradient methods in the setting of entropy-regularized reinforcement learning, that "soft" (entropy-regularized) $Q$-learning is exactly equivalent to a policy gradient method. We also point out a connection between $Q$-learning methods and natural policy gradient methods. Experimentally, we explore the entropy-regularized versions of $Q$-learning and policy gradients, and we find them to perform as well as (or slightly better than) the standard variants on the Atari benchmark. We also show that the equivalence holds in practical settings by constructing a $Q$-learning method that closely matches the learning dynamics of A3C without using a target network or $\epsilon$-greedy exploration schedule.

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Teacher-Student Curriculum Learning

Nov 29, 2017
Tambet Matiisen, Avital Oliver, Taco Cohen, John Schulman

We propose Teacher-Student Curriculum Learning (TSCL), a framework for automatic curriculum learning, where the Student tries to learn a complex task and the Teacher automatically chooses subtasks from a given set for the Student to train on. We describe a family of Teacher algorithms that rely on the intuition that the Student should practice more those tasks on which it makes the fastest progress, i.e. where the slope of the learning curve is highest. In addition, the Teacher algorithms address the problem of forgetting by also choosing tasks where the Student's performance is getting worse. We demonstrate that TSCL matches or surpasses the results of carefully hand-crafted curricula in two tasks: addition of decimal numbers with LSTM and navigation in Minecraft. Using our automatically generated curriculum enabled to solve a Minecraft maze that could not be solved at all when training directly on solving the maze, and the learning was an order of magnitude faster than uniform sampling of subtasks.

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Gradient Estimation Using Stochastic Computation Graphs

Jan 05, 2016
John Schulman, Nicolas Heess, Theophane Weber, Pieter Abbeel

In a variety of problems originating in supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning, the loss function is defined by an expectation over a collection of random variables, which might be part of a probabilistic model or the external world. Estimating the gradient of this loss function, using samples, lies at the core of gradient-based learning algorithms for these problems. We introduce the formalism of stochastic computation graphs---directed acyclic graphs that include both deterministic functions and conditional probability distributions---and describe how to easily and automatically derive an unbiased estimator of the loss function's gradient. The resulting algorithm for computing the gradient estimator is a simple modification of the standard backpropagation algorithm. The generic scheme we propose unifies estimators derived in variety of prior work, along with variance-reduction techniques therein. It could assist researchers in developing intricate models involving a combination of stochastic and deterministic operations, enabling, for example, attention, memory, and control actions.

* Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 28 (NIPS 2015) 

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UCB Exploration via Q-Ensembles

Nov 07, 2017
Richard Y. Chen, Szymon Sidor, Pieter Abbeel, John Schulman

We show how an ensemble of $Q^*$-functions can be leveraged for more effective exploration in deep reinforcement learning. We build on well established algorithms from the bandit setting, and adapt them to the $Q$-learning setting. We propose an exploration strategy based on upper-confidence bounds (UCB). Our experiments show significant gains on the Atari benchmark.

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Policy Gradient Search: Online Planning and Expert Iteration without Search Trees

Apr 07, 2019
Thomas Anthony, Robert Nishihara, Philipp Moritz, Tim Salimans, John Schulman

Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) algorithms perform simulation-based search to improve policies online. During search, the simulation policy is adapted to explore the most promising lines of play. MCTS has been used by state-of-the-art programs for many problems, however a disadvantage to MCTS is that it estimates the values of states with Monte Carlo averages, stored in a search tree; this does not scale to games with very high branching factors. We propose an alternative simulation-based search method, Policy Gradient Search (PGS), which adapts a neural network simulation policy online via policy gradient updates, avoiding the need for a search tree. In Hex, PGS achieves comparable performance to MCTS, and an agent trained using Expert Iteration with PGS was able defeat MoHex 2.0, the strongest open-source Hex agent, in 9x9 Hex.

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Quantifying Generalization in Reinforcement Learning

Dec 20, 2018
Karl Cobbe, Oleg Klimov, Chris Hesse, Taehoon Kim, John Schulman

In this paper, we investigate the problem of overfitting in deep reinforcement learning. Among the most common benchmarks in RL, it is customary to use the same environments for both training and testing. This practice offers relatively little insight into an agent's ability to generalize. We address this issue by using procedurally generated environments to construct distinct training and test sets. Most notably, we introduce a new environment called CoinRun, designed as a benchmark for generalization in RL. Using CoinRun, we find that agents overfit to surprisingly large training sets. We then show that deeper convolutional architectures improve generalization, as do methods traditionally found in supervised learning, including L2 regularization, dropout, data augmentation and batch normalization.

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High-Dimensional Continuous Control Using Generalized Advantage Estimation

Oct 20, 2018
John Schulman, Philipp Moritz, Sergey Levine, Michael Jordan, Pieter Abbeel

Policy gradient methods are an appealing approach in reinforcement learning because they directly optimize the cumulative reward and can straightforwardly be used with nonlinear function approximators such as neural networks. The two main challenges are the large number of samples typically required, and the difficulty of obtaining stable and steady improvement despite the nonstationarity of the incoming data. We address the first challenge by using value functions to substantially reduce the variance of policy gradient estimates at the cost of some bias, with an exponentially-weighted estimator of the advantage function that is analogous to TD(lambda). We address the second challenge by using trust region optimization procedure for both the policy and the value function, which are represented by neural networks. Our approach yields strong empirical results on highly challenging 3D locomotion tasks, learning running gaits for bipedal and quadrupedal simulated robots, and learning a policy for getting the biped to stand up from starting out lying on the ground. In contrast to a body of prior work that uses hand-crafted policy representations, our neural network policies map directly from raw kinematics to joint torques. Our algorithm is fully model-free, and the amount of simulated experience required for the learning tasks on 3D bipeds corresponds to 1-2 weeks of real time.

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Gotta Learn Fast: A New Benchmark for Generalization in RL

Apr 23, 2018
Alex Nichol, Vicki Pfau, Christopher Hesse, Oleg Klimov, John Schulman

In this report, we present a new reinforcement learning (RL) benchmark based on the Sonic the Hedgehog (TM) video game franchise. This benchmark is intended to measure the performance of transfer learning and few-shot learning algorithms in the RL domain. We also present and evaluate some baseline algorithms on the new benchmark.

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Meta Learning Shared Hierarchies

Oct 26, 2017
Kevin Frans, Jonathan Ho, Xi Chen, Pieter Abbeel, John Schulman

We develop a metalearning approach for learning hierarchically structured policies, improving sample efficiency on unseen tasks through the use of shared primitives---policies that are executed for large numbers of timesteps. Specifically, a set of primitives are shared within a distribution of tasks, and are switched between by task-specific policies. We provide a concrete metric for measuring the strength of such hierarchies, leading to an optimization problem for quickly reaching high reward on unseen tasks. We then present an algorithm to solve this problem end-to-end through the use of any off-the-shelf reinforcement learning method, by repeatedly sampling new tasks and resetting task-specific policies. We successfully discover meaningful motor primitives for the directional movement of four-legged robots, solely by interacting with distributions of mazes. We also demonstrate the transferability of primitives to solve long-timescale sparse-reward obstacle courses, and we enable 3D humanoid robots to robustly walk and crawl with the same policy.

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Proximal Policy Optimization Algorithms

Aug 28, 2017
John Schulman, Filip Wolski, Prafulla Dhariwal, Alec Radford, Oleg Klimov

We propose a new family of policy gradient methods for reinforcement learning, which alternate between sampling data through interaction with the environment, and optimizing a "surrogate" objective function using stochastic gradient ascent. Whereas standard policy gradient methods perform one gradient update per data sample, we propose a novel objective function that enables multiple epochs of minibatch updates. The new methods, which we call proximal policy optimization (PPO), have some of the benefits of trust region policy optimization (TRPO), but they are much simpler to implement, more general, and have better sample complexity (empirically). Our experiments test PPO on a collection of benchmark tasks, including simulated robotic locomotion and Atari game playing, and we show that PPO outperforms other online policy gradient methods, and overall strikes a favorable balance between sample complexity, simplicity, and wall-time.

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Trust Region Policy Optimization

Apr 20, 2017
John Schulman, Sergey Levine, Philipp Moritz, Michael I. Jordan, Pieter Abbeel

We describe an iterative procedure for optimizing policies, with guaranteed monotonic improvement. By making several approximations to the theoretically-justified procedure, we develop a practical algorithm, called Trust Region Policy Optimization (TRPO). This algorithm is similar to natural policy gradient methods and is effective for optimizing large nonlinear policies such as neural networks. Our experiments demonstrate its robust performance on a wide variety of tasks: learning simulated robotic swimming, hopping, and walking gaits; and playing Atari games using images of the screen as input. Despite its approximations that deviate from the theory, TRPO tends to give monotonic improvement, with little tuning of hyperparameters.

* 16 pages, ICML 2015 

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Benchmarking Deep Reinforcement Learning for Continuous Control

May 27, 2016
Yan Duan, Xi Chen, Rein Houthooft, John Schulman, Pieter Abbeel

Recently, researchers have made significant progress combining the advances in deep learning for learning feature representations with reinforcement learning. Some notable examples include training agents to play Atari games based on raw pixel data and to acquire advanced manipulation skills using raw sensory inputs. However, it has been difficult to quantify progress in the domain of continuous control due to the lack of a commonly adopted benchmark. In this work, we present a benchmark suite of continuous control tasks, including classic tasks like cart-pole swing-up, tasks with very high state and action dimensionality such as 3D humanoid locomotion, tasks with partial observations, and tasks with hierarchical structure. We report novel findings based on the systematic evaluation of a range of implemented reinforcement learning algorithms. Both the benchmark and reference implementations are released at in order to facilitate experimental reproducibility and to encourage adoption by other researchers.

* 14 pages, ICML 2016 

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Model-Based Reinforcement Learning via Meta-Policy Optimization

Sep 14, 2018
Ignasi Clavera, Jonas Rothfuss, John Schulman, Yasuhiro Fujita, Tamim Asfour, Pieter Abbeel

Model-based reinforcement learning approaches carry the promise of being data efficient. However, due to challenges in learning dynamics models that sufficiently match the real-world dynamics, they struggle to achieve the same asymptotic performance as model-free methods. We propose Model-Based Meta-Policy-Optimization (MB-MPO), an approach that foregoes the strong reliance on accurate learned dynamics models. Using an ensemble of learned dynamic models, MB-MPO meta-learns a policy that can quickly adapt to any model in the ensemble with one policy gradient step. This steers the meta-policy towards internalizing consistent dynamics predictions among the ensemble while shifting the burden of behaving optimally w.r.t. the model discrepancies towards the adaptation step. Our experiments show that MB-MPO is more robust to model imperfections than previous model-based approaches. Finally, we demonstrate that our approach is able to match the asymptotic performance of model-free methods while requiring significantly less experience.

* First 2 authors contributed equally. Accepted for Conference on Robot Learning (CoRL) 

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Concrete Problems in AI Safety

Jul 25, 2016
Dario Amodei, Chris Olah, Jacob Steinhardt, Paul Christiano, John Schulman, Dan Mané

Rapid progress in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) has brought increasing attention to the potential impacts of AI technologies on society. In this paper we discuss one such potential impact: the problem of accidents in machine learning systems, defined as unintended and harmful behavior that may emerge from poor design of real-world AI systems. We present a list of five practical research problems related to accident risk, categorized according to whether the problem originates from having the wrong objective function ("avoiding side effects" and "avoiding reward hacking"), an objective function that is too expensive to evaluate frequently ("scalable supervision"), or undesirable behavior during the learning process ("safe exploration" and "distributional shift"). We review previous work in these areas as well as suggesting research directions with a focus on relevance to cutting-edge AI systems. Finally, we consider the high-level question of how to think most productively about the safety of forward-looking applications of AI.

* 29 pages 

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InfoGAN: Interpretable Representation Learning by Information Maximizing Generative Adversarial Nets

Jun 12, 2016
Xi Chen, Yan Duan, Rein Houthooft, John Schulman, Ilya Sutskever, Pieter Abbeel

This paper describes InfoGAN, an information-theoretic extension to the Generative Adversarial Network that is able to learn disentangled representations in a completely unsupervised manner. InfoGAN is a generative adversarial network that also maximizes the mutual information between a small subset of the latent variables and the observation. We derive a lower bound to the mutual information objective that can be optimized efficiently, and show that our training procedure can be interpreted as a variation of the Wake-Sleep algorithm. Specifically, InfoGAN successfully disentangles writing styles from digit shapes on the MNIST dataset, pose from lighting of 3D rendered images, and background digits from the central digit on the SVHN dataset. It also discovers visual concepts that include hair styles, presence/absence of eyeglasses, and emotions on the CelebA face dataset. Experiments show that InfoGAN learns interpretable representations that are competitive with representations learned by existing fully supervised methods.

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VIME: Variational Information Maximizing Exploration

Jan 27, 2017
Rein Houthooft, Xi Chen, Yan Duan, John Schulman, Filip De Turck, Pieter Abbeel

Scalable and effective exploration remains a key challenge in reinforcement learning (RL). While there are methods with optimality guarantees in the setting of discrete state and action spaces, these methods cannot be applied in high-dimensional deep RL scenarios. As such, most contemporary RL relies on simple heuristics such as epsilon-greedy exploration or adding Gaussian noise to the controls. This paper introduces Variational Information Maximizing Exploration (VIME), an exploration strategy based on maximization of information gain about the agent's belief of environment dynamics. We propose a practical implementation, using variational inference in Bayesian neural networks which efficiently handles continuous state and action spaces. VIME modifies the MDP reward function, and can be applied with several different underlying RL algorithms. We demonstrate that VIME achieves significantly better performance compared to heuristic exploration methods across a variety of continuous control tasks and algorithms, including tasks with very sparse rewards.

* Published in Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS), pages 1109-1117 

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RL$^2$: Fast Reinforcement Learning via Slow Reinforcement Learning

Nov 10, 2016
Yan Duan, John Schulman, Xi Chen, Peter L. Bartlett, Ilya Sutskever, Pieter Abbeel

Deep reinforcement learning (deep RL) has been successful in learning sophisticated behaviors automatically; however, the learning process requires a huge number of trials. In contrast, animals can learn new tasks in just a few trials, benefiting from their prior knowledge about the world. This paper seeks to bridge this gap. Rather than designing a "fast" reinforcement learning algorithm, we propose to represent it as a recurrent neural network (RNN) and learn it from data. In our proposed method, RL$^2$, the algorithm is encoded in the weights of the RNN, which are learned slowly through a general-purpose ("slow") RL algorithm. The RNN receives all information a typical RL algorithm would receive, including observations, actions, rewards, and termination flags; and it retains its state across episodes in a given Markov Decision Process (MDP). The activations of the RNN store the state of the "fast" RL algorithm on the current (previously unseen) MDP. We evaluate RL$^2$ experimentally on both small-scale and large-scale problems. On the small-scale side, we train it to solve randomly generated multi-arm bandit problems and finite MDPs. After RL$^2$ is trained, its performance on new MDPs is close to human-designed algorithms with optimality guarantees. On the large-scale side, we test RL$^2$ on a vision-based navigation task and show that it scales up to high-dimensional problems.

* 14 pages. Under review as a conference paper at ICLR 2017 

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