Towards Practical Credit Assignment for Deep Reinforcement Learning [article]

Vyacheslav Alipov, Riley Simmons-Edler, Nikita Putintsev, Pavel Kalinin, Dmitry Vetrov
2022 arXiv   pre-print
Credit assignment is a fundamental problem in reinforcement learning, the problem of measuring an action's influence on future rewards. Explicit credit assignment methods have the potential to boost the performance of RL algorithms on many tasks, but thus far remain impractical for general use. Recently, a family of methods called Hindsight Credit Assignment (HCA) was proposed, which explicitly assign credit to actions in hindsight based on the probability of the action having led to an
more » ... outcome. This approach has appealing properties, but remains a largely theoretical idea applicable to a limited set of tabular RL tasks. Moreover, it is unclear how to extend HCA to deep RL environments. In this work, we explore the use of HCA-style credit in a deep RL context. We first describe the limitations of existing HCA algorithms in deep RL that lead to their poor performance or complete lack of training, then propose several theoretically-justified modifications to overcome them. We explore the quantitative and qualitative effects of the resulting algorithm on the Arcade Learning Environment (ALE) benchmark, and observe that it improves performance over Advantage Actor-Critic (A2C) on many games where non-trivial credit assignment is necessary to achieve high scores and where hindsight probabilities can be accurately estimated.
arXiv:2106.04499v2 fatcat:asx6zhiwsnazjlqh4zev2k7cey