Program Synthesis Guided Reinforcement Learning for Partially Observed Environments

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Yichen Yang, Jeevana Priya Inala, Osbert Bastani, Yewen Pu, Armando Solar-Lezama, Martin Rinard


A key challenge for reinforcement learning is solving long-horizon planning problems. Recent work has leveraged programs to guide reinforcement learning in these settings. However, these approaches impose a high manual burden on the user since they must provide a guiding program for every new task. Partially observed environments further complicate the programming task because the program must implement a strategy that correctly, and ideally optimally, handles every possible configuration of the hidden regions of the environment. We propose a new approach, model predictive program synthesis (MPPS), that uses program synthesis to automatically generate the guiding programs. It trains a generative model to predict the unobserved portions of the world, and then synthesizes a program based on samples from this model in a way that is robust to its uncertainty. In our experiments, we show that our approach significantly outperforms non-program-guided approaches on a set of challenging benchmarks, including a 2D Minecraft-inspired environment where the agent must complete a complex sequence of subtasks to achieve its goal, and achieves a similar performance as using handcrafted programs to guide the agent. Our results demonstrate that our approach can obtain the benefits of program-guided reinforcement learning without requiring the user to provide a new guiding program for every new task.