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PARL: A Unified Framework for Policy Alignment in Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback

Souradip Chakraborty · Amrit Bedi · Alec Koppel · Huazheng Wang · Dinesh Manocha · Mengdi Wang · Furong Huang

Halle B #240
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Thu 9 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT

Abstract: We present a novel unified bilevel optimization-based framework, \textsf{PARL}, formulated to address the recently highlighted critical issue of policy alignment in reinforcement learning using utility or preference-based feedback. We identify a major gap within current algorithmic designs for solving policy alignment due to a lack of precise characterization of the dependence of the alignment objective on the data generated by policy trajectories. This shortfall contributes to the sub-optimal performance observed in contemporary algorithms. Our framework addressed these concerns by explicitly parameterizing the distribution of the upper alignment objective (reward design) by the lower optimal variable (optimal policy for the designed reward). Interestingly, from an optimization perspective, our formulation leads to a new class of stochastic bilevel problems where the stochasticity at the upper objective depends upon the lower-level variable. {True to our best knowledge, this work presents the first formulation of the RLHF as a bilevel optimization problem which generalizes the existing RLHF formulations and addresses the existing distribution shift issues in RLHF formulations.} To demonstrate the efficacy of our formulation in resolving alignment issues in RL, we devised an algorithm named \textsf{A-PARL} to solve PARL problem, establishing sample complexity bounds of order $\mathcal{O}(1/T)$. Our empirical results substantiate that the proposed \textsf{PARL} can address the alignment concerns in RL by showing significant improvements (up to 63\% in terms of required samples) for policy alignment in large-scale environments of the Deepmind control suite and Meta world tasks.

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