Curriculum in Gradient-Based Meta-Reinforcement Learning

19 Feb 2020  ·  Bhairav Mehta, Tristan Deleu, Sharath Chandra Raparthy, Chris J. Pal, Liam Paull ·

Gradient-based meta-learners such as Model-Agnostic Meta-Learning (MAML) have shown strong few-shot performance in supervised and reinforcement learning settings. However, specifically in the case of meta-reinforcement learning (meta-RL), we can show that gradient-based meta-learners are sensitive to task distributions. With the wrong curriculum, agents suffer the effects of meta-overfitting, shallow adaptation, and adaptation instability. In this work, we begin by highlighting intriguing failure cases of gradient-based meta-RL and show that task distributions can wildly affect algorithmic outputs, stability, and performance. To address this problem, we leverage insights from recent literature on domain randomization and propose meta Active Domain Randomization (meta-ADR), which learns a curriculum of tasks for gradient-based meta-RL in a similar as ADR does for sim2real transfer. We show that this approach induces more stable policies on a variety of simulated locomotion and navigation tasks. We assess in- and out-of-distribution generalization and find that the learned task distributions, even in an unstructured task space, greatly improve the adaptation performance of MAML. Finally, we motivate the need for better benchmarking in meta-RL that prioritizes \textit{generalization} over single-task adaption performance.

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