Finding Useful Predictions by Meta-gradient Descent to Improve Decision-making

18 Nov 2021  ·  Alex Kearney, Anna Koop, Johannes Günther, Patrick M. Pilarski ·

In computational reinforcement learning, a growing body of work seeks to express an agent's model of the world through predictions about future sensations. In this manuscript we focus on predictions expressed as General Value Functions: temporally extended estimates of the accumulation of a future signal. One challenge is determining from the infinitely many predictions that the agent could possibly make which might support decision-making. In this work, we contribute a meta-gradient descent method by which an agent can directly specify what predictions it learns, independent of designer instruction. To that end, we introduce a partially observable domain suited to this investigation. We then demonstrate that through interaction with the environment an agent can independently select predictions that resolve the partial-observability, resulting in performance similar to expertly chosen value functions. By learning, rather than manually specifying these predictions, we enable the agent to identify useful predictions in a self-supervised manner, taking a step towards truly autonomous systems.

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