Stabilizing Value Function Approximation with the BFBP Algorithm

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 14 (NIPS 2001)

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Xin Wang, Thomas Dietterich


We address the problem of non-convergence of online reinforcement learning algorithms (e.g., Q learning and SARSA(A)) by adopt(cid:173) ing an incremental-batch approach that separates the exploration process from the function fitting process. Our BFBP (Batch Fit to Best Paths) algorithm alternates between an exploration phase (during which trajectories are generated to try to find fragments of the optimal policy) and a function fitting phase (during which a function approximator is fit to the best known paths from start states to terminal states). An advantage of this approach is that batch value-function fitting is a global process, which allows it to address the tradeoffs in function approximation that cannot be handled by local, online algorithms. This approach was pioneered by Boyan and Moore with their GROWSUPPORT and ROUT al(cid:173) gorithms. We show how to improve upon their work by applying a better exploration process and by enriching the function fitting procedure to incorporate Bellman error and advantage error mea(cid:173) sures into the objective function. The results show improved per(cid:173) formance on several benchmark problems.