On Local Rewards and Scaling Distributed Reinforcement Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 18 (NIPS 2005)

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Drew Bagnell, Andrew Ng


We consider the scaling of the number of examples necessary to achieve good performance in distributed, cooperative, multi-agent reinforcement learning, as a function of the the number of agents n. We prove a worstcase lower bound showing that algorithms that rely solely on a global reward signal to learn policies confront a fundamental limit: They require a number of real-world examples that scales roughly linearly in the number of agents. For settings of interest with a very large number of agents, this is impractical. We demonstrate, however, that there is a class of algorithms that, by taking advantage of local reward signals in large distributed Markov Decision Processes, are able to ensure good performance with a number of samples that scales as O(log n). This makes them applicable even in settings with a very large number of agents n.