Finding Structure in Reinforcement Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 7 (NIPS 1994)

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Sebastian Thrun, Anton Schwartz


Reinforcement learning addresses the problem of learning to select actions in order to maximize one's performance in unknown environments. To scale reinforcement learning to complex real-world tasks, such as typically studied in AI, one must ultimately be able to discover the structure in the world, in order to abstract away the myriad of details and to operate in more tractable problem spaces. This paper presents the SKILLS algorithm. SKILLS discovers skills, which are partially defined action policies that arise in the context of multiple, related tasks. Skills collapse whole action sequences into single operators. They are learned by minimizing the com(cid:173) pactness of action policies, using a description length argument on their representation. Empirical results in simple grid navigation tasks illustrate the successful discovery of structure in reinforcement learning.