Experimental Results on Learning Stochastic Memoryless Policies for Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 11 (NIPS 1998)

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John Williams, Satinder Singh


Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (pO "MOPs) constitute an important class of reinforcement learning problems which present unique theoretical and computational difficulties. In the absence of the Markov property, popular reinforcement learning algorithms such as Q-Iearning may no longer be effective, and memory-based methods which remove partial observability via state-estimation are notoriously expensive. An alternative approach is to seek a stochastic memoryless policy which for each observation of the environment prescribes a probability distribution over available actions that maximizes the average reward per timestep. A reinforcement learning algorithm which learns a locally optimal stochastic memoryless policy has been proposed by Jaakkola, Singh and Jordan, but not empirically verified. We present a variation of this algorithm, discuss its implementation, and demonstrate its viability using four test problems.