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Discovering hierarchy in reinforcement learning

This thesis addresses the open problem of automatically discovering hierarchical structure in reinforcement learning. Current algorithms for reinforcement learning fail to scale as problems become more complex. Many complex environments empirically exhibit hierarchy and can be modeled as interrelated subsystems, each in turn with hierarchic structure. Subsystems are often repetitive in time and space, meaning that they reoccur as components of different tasks or occur multiple times in different circumstances in the environment. A learning agent may sometimes scale to larger problems if it successfully exploits this repetition. Evidence suggests that a bottom up approach that repetitively finds building-blocks at one level of abstraction and uses them as background knowledge at the next level of abstraction, makes learning in many complex environments tractable. An algorithm, called HEXQ, is described that automatically decomposes and solves a multi-dimensional Markov decision problem (MDP) by constructing a multi-level hierarchy of interlinked subtasks without being given the model beforehand. The effectiveness and efficiency of the HEXQ decomposition depends largely on the choice of representation in terms of the variables, their temporal relationship and whether the problem exhibits a type of constrained stochasticity. The algorithm is first developed for stochastic shortest path problems and then extended to infinite horizon problems. The operation of the algorithm is demonstrated using a number of examples including a taxi domain, various navigation tasks, the Towers of Hanoi and a larger sporting problem. The main contributions of the thesis are the automation of (1)decomposition, (2) sub-goal identification, and (3) discovery of hierarchical structure for MDPs with states described by a number of variables or features. It points the way to further scaling opportunities that encompass approximations, partial observability, selective perception, relational representations and planning. The longer term research aim is to train rather than program intelligent agents
Date January 2003
CreatorsHengst, Bernhard, Computer Science & Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, UNSW
PublisherAwarded by:University of New South Wales. Computer Science and Engineering
Source SetsAustraliasian Digital Theses Program
Detected LanguageEnglish
RightsCopyright Bernhard Hengst,

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