Bootstrapping Skills

author: Daniel Mankowitz, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
published: July 28, 2015,   recorded: June 2015,   views: 1762


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The monolithic approach to policy representation in Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) looks for a single policy that can be represented as a function from states to actions. For the monolithic approach to succeed (and this is not always possible), a complex feature representation is often necessary since the policy is a complex object that has to prescribe what actions to take all over the state space. This is especially true 11 in large-state MDP domains with complicated dynamics. It is also computationally inefficient to both learn and plan in MDPs using a complex monolithic approach. We present a different approach where we restrict the policy space to policies that can be represented as combinations of simpler, parameterized skills—a type of temporally extended action, with a simple policy representation. We introduce Learning Skills via Bootstrapping (LSB) that can use a broad family of Reinforcement Learning (RL) algorithms as a “black box” to iteratively learn parametrized skills. Initially, the learned skills are short-sighted, but each iteration of the algorithm allows the skills to bootstrap off one another, improving each skill in the process. We prove that this bootstrapping process returns a near-optimal policy. Furthermore, our experiments demonstrate that LSB can solve MDPs that, given the same representational power, could not be solved by a monolithic approach. Thus, planning with learned skills results in better policies without requiring complex policy representations.

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