Understanding and Leveraging Overparameterization in Recursive Value Estimation

Chenjun Xiao · Bo Dai · Jincheng Mei · Oscar Ramirez · Ramki Gummadi · Chris Harris · Dale Schuurmans

Keywords: [ temporal difference learning ] [ overparameterization ]

[ Abstract ]
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Wed 27 Apr 10:30 a.m. PDT — 12:30 p.m. PDT


The theory of function approximation in reinforcement learning (RL) typically considers low capacity representations that incur a tradeoff between approximation error, stability and generalization. Current deep architectures, however, operate in an overparameterized regime where approximation error is not necessarily a bottleneck. To better understand the utility of deep models in RL we present an analysis of recursive value estimation using \emph{overparameterized} linear representations that provides useful, transferable findings. First, we show that classical updates such as temporal difference (TD) learning or fitted-value-iteration (FVI) converge to \emph{different} fixed points than residual minimization (RM) in the overparameterized linear case. We then develop a unified interpretation of overparameterized linear value estimation as minimizing the Euclidean norm of the weights subject to alternative constraints. A practical consequence is that RM can be modified by a simple alteration of the backup targets to obtain the same fixed points as FVI and TD (when they converge), while universally ensuring stability. Further, we provide an analysis of the generalization error of these methods, demonstrating per iterate bounds on the value prediction error of FVI, and fixed point bounds for TD and RM. Given this understanding, we then develop new algorithmic tools for improving recursive value estimation with deep models. In particular, we extract two regularizers that penalize out-of-span top-layer weights and co-linearity in top-layer features respectively. Empirically we find that these regularizers dramatically improve the stability of TD and FVI, while allowing RM to match and even sometimes surpass their generalization performance with assured stability.

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