Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)
Andreea-Ioana Deac, Petar Veličković, Ognjen Milinkovic, Pierre-Luc Bacon, Jian Tang, Mladen Nikolic
Implicit planning has emerged as an elegant technique for combining learned models of the world with end-to-end model-free reinforcement learning. We study the class of implicit planners inspired by value iteration, an algorithm that is guaranteed to yield perfect policies in fully-specified tabular environments. We find that prior approaches either assume that the environment is provided in such a tabular form---which is highly restrictive---or infer "local neighbourhoods" of states to run value iteration over---for which we discover an algorithmic bottleneck effect. This effect is caused by explicitly running the planning algorithm based on scalar predictions in every state, which can be harmful to data efficiency if such scalars are improperly predicted. We propose eXecuted Latent Value Iteration Networks (XLVINs), which alleviate the above limitations. Our method performs all planning computations in a high-dimensional latent space, breaking the algorithmic bottleneck. It maintains alignment with value iteration by carefully leveraging neural graph-algorithmic reasoning and contrastive self-supervised learning. Across seven low-data settings---including classical control, navigation and Atari---XLVINs provide significant improvements to data efficiency against value iteration-based implicit planners, as well as relevant model-free baselines. Lastly, we empirically verify that XLVINs can closely align with value iteration.