Policy Optimization over General State and Action Spaces

30 Nov 2022  ·  Guanghui Lan ·

Reinforcement learning (RL) problems over general state and action spaces are notoriously challenging. In contrast to the tableau setting, one can not enumerate all the states and then iteratively update the policies for each state. This prevents the application of many well-studied RL methods especially those with provable convergence guarantees. In this paper, we first present a substantial generalization of the recently developed policy mirror descent method to deal with general state and action spaces. We introduce new approaches to incorporate function approximation into this method, so that we do not need to use explicit policy parameterization at all. Moreover, we present a novel policy dual averaging method for which possibly simpler function approximation techniques can be applied. We establish linear convergence rate to global optimality or sublinear convergence to stationarity for these methods applied to solve different classes of RL problems under exact policy evaluation. We then define proper notions of the approximation errors for policy evaluation and investigate their impact on the convergence of these methods applied to general-state RL problems with either finite-action or continuous-action spaces. To the best of our knowledge, the development of these algorithmic frameworks as well as their convergence analysis appear to be new in the literature.

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