Learning Reward Machines for Partially Observable Reinforcement Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Rodrigo Toro Icarte, Ethan Waldie, Toryn Klassen, Rick Valenzano, Margarita Castro, Sheila McIlraith


<p>Reward Machines (RMs), originally proposed for specifying problems in Reinforcement Learning (RL), provide a structured, automata-based representation of a reward function that allows an agent to decompose problems into subproblems that can be efficiently learned using off-policy learning. Here we show that RMs can be learned from experience, instead of being specified by the user, and that the resulting problem decomposition can be used to effectively solve partially observable RL problems. We pose the task of learning RMs as a discrete optimization problem where the objective is to find an RM that decomposes the problem into a set of subproblems such that the combination of their optimal memoryless policies is an optimal policy for the original problem. We show the effectiveness of this approach on three partially observable domains, where it significantly outperforms A3C, PPO, and ACER, and discuss its advantages, limitations, and broader potential.</p>