We show that the Bellman operator underlying the options framework leads to a matrix splitting, an approach traditionally used to speed up convergence of iterative solvers for large linear systems of equations. Based on standard comparison theorems for matrix splittings, we then show how the asymptotic rate of convergence varies as a function of the inherent timescales of the options. This new perspective highlights a trade-off between asymptotic performance and the cost of computation associated with building a good set of options.

* The results presented in the previous version of this paper were found be applicable only to "gating execution" and not "call-and-return". We made this distinction clear in the text and added an extension to the call-and-return model
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Temporal abstraction is key to scaling up learning and planning in reinforcement learning. While planning with temporally extended actions is well understood, creating such abstractions autonomously from data has remained challenging. We tackle this problem in the framework of options [Sutton, Precup & Singh, 1999; Precup, 2000]. We derive policy gradient theorems for options and propose a new option-critic architecture capable of learning both the internal policies and the termination conditions of options, in tandem with the policy over options, and without the need to provide any additional rewards or subgoals. Experimental results in both discrete and continuous environments showcase the flexibility and efficiency of the framework.

* Accepted to the Thirthy-first AAAI Conference On Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), 2017
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Off-policy learning is key to scaling up reinforcement learning as it allows to learn about a target policy from the experience generated by a different behavior policy. Unfortunately, it has been challenging to combine off-policy learning with function approximation and multi-step bootstrapping in a way that leads to both stable and efficient algorithms. In this work, we show that the \textsc{Tree Backup} and \textsc{Retrace} algorithms are unstable with linear function approximation, both in theory and in practice with specific examples. Based on our analysis, we then derive stable and efficient gradient-based algorithms using a quadratic convex-concave saddle-point formulation. By exploiting the problem structure proper to these algorithms, we are able to provide convergence guarantees and finite-sample bounds. The applicability of our new analysis also goes beyond \textsc{Tree Backup} and \textsc{Retrace} and allows us to provide new convergence rates for the GTD and GTD2 algorithms without having recourse to projections or Polyak averaging.

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We present new results on learning temporally extended actions for continuoustasks, using the options framework (Suttonet al.[1999b], Precup [2000]). In orderto achieve this goal we work with the option-critic architecture (Baconet al.[2017])using a deliberation cost and train it with proximal policy optimization (Schulmanet al.[2017]) instead of vanilla policy gradient. Results on Mujoco domains arepromising, but lead to interesting questions aboutwhena given option should beused, an issue directly connected to the use of initiation sets.

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Recent work has shown that temporally extended actions (options) can be learned fully end-to-end as opposed to being specified in advance. While the problem of "how" to learn options is increasingly well understood, the question of "what" good options should be has remained elusive. We formulate our answer to what "good" options should be in the bounded rationality framework (Simon, 1957) through the notion of deliberation cost. We then derive practical gradient-based learning algorithms to implement this objective. Our results in the Arcade Learning Environment (ALE) show increased performance and interpretability.

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Deep learning has become the state-of-art tool in many applications, but the evaluation and training of deep models can be time-consuming and computationally expensive. The conditional computation approach has been proposed to tackle this problem (Bengio et al., 2013; Davis & Arel, 2013). It operates by selectively activating only parts of the network at a time. In this paper, we use reinforcement learning as a tool to optimize conditional computation policies. More specifically, we cast the problem of learning activation-dependent policies for dropping out blocks of units as a reinforcement learning problem. We propose a learning scheme motivated by computation speed, capturing the idea of wanting to have parsimonious activations while maintaining prediction accuracy. We apply a policy gradient algorithm for learning policies that optimize this loss function and propose a regularization mechanism that encourages diversification of the dropout policy. We present encouraging empirical results showing that this approach improves the speed of computation without impacting the quality of the approximation.

* ICLR 2016 submission, revised
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A temporally abstract action, or an option, is specified by a policy and a termination condition: the policy guides option behavior, and the termination condition roughly determines its length. Generally, learning with longer options (like learning with multi-step returns) is known to be more efficient. However, if the option set for the task is not ideal, and cannot express the primitive optimal policy exactly, shorter options offer more flexibility and can yield a better solution. Thus, the termination condition puts learning efficiency at odds with solution quality. We propose to resolve this dilemma by decoupling the behavior and target terminations, just like it is done with policies in off-policy learning. To this end, we give a new algorithm, Q(\beta), that learns the solution with respect to any termination condition, regardless of how the options actually terminate. We derive Q(\beta) by casting learning with options into a common framework with well-studied multi-step off-policy learning. We validate our algorithm empirically, and show that it holds up to its motivating claims.

* AAAI 2018
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Robust reinforcement learning aims to produce policies that have strong guarantees even in the face of environments/transition models whose parameters have strong uncertainty. Existing work uses value-based methods and the usual primitive action setting. In this paper, we propose robust methods for learning temporally abstract actions, in the framework of options. We present a Robust Options Policy Iteration (ROPI) algorithm with convergence guarantees, which learns options that are robust to model uncertainty. We utilize ROPI to learn robust options with the Robust Options Deep Q Network (RO-DQN) that solves multiple tasks and mitigates model misspecification due to model uncertainty. We present experimental results which suggest that policy iteration with linear features may have an inherent form of robustness when using coarse feature representations. In addition, we present experimental results which demonstrate that robustness helps policy iteration implemented on top of deep neural networks to generalize over a much broader range of dynamics than non-robust policy iteration.

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Reinforcement learning has shown promise in learning policies that can solve complex problems. However, manually specifying a good reward function can be difficult, especially for intricate tasks. Inverse reinforcement learning offers a useful paradigm to learn the underlying reward function directly from expert demonstrations. Yet in reality, the corpus of demonstrations may contain trajectories arising from a diverse set of underlying reward functions rather than a single one. Thus, in inverse reinforcement learning, it is useful to consider such a decomposition. The options framework in reinforcement learning is specifically designed to decompose policies in a similar light. We therefore extend the options framework and propose a method to simultaneously recover reward options in addition to policy options. We leverage adversarial methods to learn joint reward-policy options using only observed expert states. We show that this approach works well in both simple and complex continuous control tasks and shows significant performance increases in one-shot transfer learning.

* Accepted to the Thirthy-Second AAAI Conference On Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), 2018
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We want to make progress toward artificial general intelligence, namely general-purpose agents that autonomously learn how to competently act in complex environments. The purpose of this report is to sketch a research outline, share some of the most important open issues we are facing, and stimulate further discussion in the community. The content is based on some of our discussions during a week-long workshop held in Barbados in February 2018.

* NIPS Continual Learning Workshop 2018
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