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When should agents explore?

Miruna PĂ®slar · David Szepesvari · Georg Ostrovski · Diana Borsa · Tom Schaul


Exploration remains a central challenge for reinforcement learning (RL). Virtually all existing methods share the feature of a monolithic behaviour policy that changes only gradually (at best). In contrast, the exploratory behaviours of animals and humans exhibit a rich diversity, namely including forms of switching between modes. This paper presents an initial study of mode-switching, non-monolithic exploration for RL. We investigate different modes to switch between, at what timescales it makes sense to switch, and what signals make for good switching triggers. We also propose practical algorithmic components that make the switching mechanism adaptive and robust, which enables flexibility without an accompanying hyper-parameter-tuning burden. Finally, we report a promising initial study on Atari, using two-mode exploration and switching at sub-episodic time-scales.

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