Survey on Fair Reinforcement Learning: Theory and Practice

20 May 2022  ·  Pratik Gajane, Akrati Saxena, Maryam Tavakol, George Fletcher, Mykola Pechenizkiy ·

Fairness-aware learning aims at satisfying various fairness constraints in addition to the usual performance criteria via data-driven machine learning techniques. Most of the research in fairness-aware learning employs the setting of fair-supervised learning. However, many dynamic real-world applications can be better modeled using sequential decision-making problems and fair reinforcement learning provides a more suitable alternative for addressing these problems. In this article, we provide an extensive overview of fairness approaches that have been implemented via a reinforcement learning (RL) framework. We discuss various practical applications in which RL methods have been applied to achieve a fair solution with high accuracy. We further include various facets of the theory of fair reinforcement learning, organizing them into single-agent RL, multi-agent RL, long-term fairness via RL, and offline learning. Moreover, we highlight a few major issues to explore in order to advance the field of fair-RL, namely - i) correcting societal biases, ii) feasibility of group fairness or individual fairness, and iii) explainability in RL. Our work is beneficial for both researchers and practitioners as we discuss articles providing mathematical guarantees as well as articles with empirical studies on real-world problems.

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