Scaling reinforcement learning to the unconstrained multi-agent domain
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Reinforcement learning is a machine learning technique designed to mimic the way animals learn by receiving rewards and punishment. It is designed to train intelligent agents when very little is known about the agent’s environment, and consequently the agent’s designer is unable to hand-craft an appropriate policy. Using reinforcement learning, the agent’s designer can merely give reward to the agent when it does something right, and the algorithm will craft an appropriate policy automatically. In many situations it is desirable to use this technique to train systems of agents (for example, to train robots to play RoboCup soccer in a coordinated fashion). Unfortunately, several significant computational issues occur when using this technique to train systems of agents. This dissertation introduces a suite of techniques that overcome many of these difficulties in various common situations. First, we show how multi-agent reinforcement learning can be made more tractable by forming coalitions out of the agents, and training each coalition separately. Coalitions are formed by using information-theoretic techniques, and we find that by using a coalition-based approach, the computational complexity of reinforcement-learning can be made linear in the total system agent count. Next we look at ways to integrate domain knowledge into the reinforcement learning process, and how this can signifi-cantly improve the policy quality in multi-agent situations. Specifically, we find that integrating domain knowledge into a reinforcement learning process can overcome training data deficiencies and allow the learner to converge to acceptable solutions when lack of training data would have prevented such convergence without domain knowledge. We then show how to train policies over continuous action spaces, which can reduce problem complexity for domains that require continuous action spaces (analog controllers) by eliminating the need to finely discretize the action space. Finally, we look at ways to perform reinforcement learning on modern GPUs and show how by doing this we can tackle significantly larger problems. We find that by offloading some of the RL computation to the GPU, we can achieve almost a 4.5 speedup factor in the total training process.
Palmer, Victor (2007). Scaling reinforcement learning to the unconstrained multi-agent domain. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from