Neural Policy Gradient Methods: Global Optimality and Rates of Convergence

Lingxiao Wang, Qi Cai, Zhuoran Yang, Zhaoran Wang

Keywords: policy gradient

Abstract: Policy gradient methods with actor-critic schemes demonstrate tremendous empirical successes, especially when the actors and critics are parameterized by neural networks. However, it remains less clear whether such "neural" policy gradient methods converge to globally optimal policies and whether they even converge at all. We answer both the questions affirmatively in the overparameterized regime. In detail, we prove that neural natural policy gradient converges to a globally optimal policy at a sublinear rate. Also, we show that neural vanilla policy gradient converges sublinearly to a stationary point. Meanwhile, by relating the suboptimality of the stationary points to the~representation power of neural actor and critic classes, we prove the global optimality of all stationary points under mild regularity conditions. Particularly, we show that a key to the global optimality and convergence is the "compatibility" between the actor and critic, which is ensured by sharing neural architectures and random initializations across the actor and critic. To the best of our knowledge, our analysis establishes the first global optimality and convergence guarantees for neural policy gradient methods.

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