ProtoX: Explaining a Reinforcement Learning Agent via Prototyping

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Ronilo Ragodos, Tong Wang, Qihang Lin, Xun Zhou


While deep reinforcement learning has proven to be successful in solving control tasks, the ``black-box'' nature of an agent has received increasing concerns. We propose a prototype-based post-hoc \emph{policy explainer}, ProtoX, that explains a black-box agent by prototyping the agent's behaviors into scenarios, each represented by a prototypical state. When learning prototypes, ProtoX considers both visual similarity and scenario similarity. The latter is unique to the reinforcement learning context since it explains why the same action is taken in visually different states. To teach ProtoX about visual similarity, we pre-train an encoder using contrastive learning via self-supervised learning to recognize states as similar if they occur close together in time and receive the same action from the black-box agent. We then add an isometry layer to allow ProtoX to adapt scenario similarity to the downstream task. ProtoX is trained via imitation learning using behavior cloning, and thus requires no access to the environment or agent. In addition to explanation fidelity, we design different prototype shaping terms in the objective function to encourage better interpretability. We conduct various experiments to test ProtoX. Results show that ProtoX achieved high fidelity to the original black-box agent while providing meaningful and understandable explanations.