Razvan Pascanu

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Research Scientist at Google DeepMind, Phd Student in Machine Learning at Université de Montréal, Developer at Université de Montréal

  • Ray Interference: a Source of Plateaus in Deep Reinforcement Learning

    Rather than proposing a new method, this paper investigates an issue present in existing learning algorithms. We study the learning dynamics of reinforcement learning (RL), specifically a characteristic coupling between learning and data generation that arises because RL agents control their future data distribution. In the presence of function approximation, this coupling can lead to a problematic type of 'ray interference', characterized by learning dynamics that sequentially traverse a number of performance plateaus, effectively constraining the agent to learn one thing at a time even when learning in parallel is better. We establish the conditions under which ray interference occurs, show its relation to saddle points and obtain the exact learning dynamics in a restricted setting. We characterize a number of its properties and discuss possible remedies.

    04/25/2019 ∙ by Tom Schaul, et al. ∙ 24 share

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  • Exploiting Hierarchy for Learning and Transfer in KL-regularized RL

    As reinforcement learning agents are tasked with solving more challenging and diverse tasks, the ability to incorporate prior knowledge into the learning system and to exploit reusable structure in solution space is likely to become increasingly important. The KL-regularized expected reward objective constitutes one possible tool to this end. It introduces an additional component, a default or prior behavior, which can be learned alongside the policy and as such partially transforms the reinforcement learning problem into one of behavior modelling. In this work we consider the implications of this framework in cases where both the policy and default behavior are augmented with latent variables. We discuss how the resulting hierarchical structures can be used to implement different inductive biases and how their modularity can benefit transfer. Empirically we find that they can lead to faster learning and transfer on a range of continuous control tasks.

    03/18/2019 ∙ by Dhruva Tirumala, et al. ∙ 20 share

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  • Meta-learning of Sequential Strategies

    In this report we review memory-based meta-learning as a tool for building sample-efficient strategies that learn from past experience to adapt to any task within a target class. Our goal is to equip the reader with the conceptual foundations of this tool for building new, scalable agents that operate on broad domains. To do so, we present basic algorithmic templates for building near-optimal predictors and reinforcement learners which behave as if they had a probabilistic model that allowed them to efficiently exploit task structure. Furthermore, we recast memory-based meta-learning within a Bayesian framework, showing that the meta-learned strategies are near-optimal because they amortize Bayes-filtered data, where the adaptation is implemented in the memory dynamics as a state-machine of sufficient statistics. Essentially, memory-based meta-learning translates the hard problem of probabilistic sequential inference into a regression problem.

    05/08/2019 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 16 share

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  • Functional Regularisation for Continual Learning using Gaussian Processes

    We introduce a novel approach for supervised continual learning based on approximate Bayesian inference over function space rather than the parameters of a deep neural network. We use a Gaussian process obtained by treating the weights of the last layer of a neural network as random and Gaussian distributed. Functional regularisation for continual learning naturally arises by applying the variational sparse GP inference method in a sequential fashion as new tasks are encountered. At each step of the process, a summary is constructed for the current task that consists of (i) inducing inputs and (ii) a posterior distribution over the function values at these inputs. This summary then regularises learning of future tasks, through Kullback-Leibler regularisation terms that appear in the variational lower bound, and reduces the effects of catastrophic forgetting. We fully develop the theory of the method and we demonstrate its effectiveness in classification datasets, such as Split-MNIST, Permuted-MNIST and Omniglot.

    01/31/2019 ∙ by Michalis K. Titsias, et al. ∙ 14 share

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  • Distilling Policy Distillation

    The transfer of knowledge from one policy to another is an important tool in Deep Reinforcement Learning. This process, referred to as distillation, has been used to great success, for example, by enhancing the optimisation of agents, leading to stronger performance faster, on harder domains [26, 32, 5, 8]. Despite the widespread use and conceptual simplicity of distillation, many different formulations are used in practice, and the subtle variations between them can often drastically change the performance and the resulting objective that is being optimised. In this work, we rigorously explore the entire landscape of policy distillation, comparing the motivations and strengths of each variant through theoretical and empirical analysis. Our results point to three distillation techniques, that are preferred depending on specifics of the task. Specifically a newly proposed expected entropy regularised distillation allows for quicker learning in a wide range of situations, while still guaranteeing convergence.

    02/06/2019 ∙ by Wojciech Marian Czarnecki, et al. ∙ 14 share

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  • Adapting Auxiliary Losses Using Gradient Similarity

    One approach to deal with the statistical inefficiency of neural networks is to rely on auxiliary losses that help to build useful representations. However, it is not always trivial to know if an auxiliary task will be helpful for the main task and when it could start hurting. We propose to use the cosine similarity between gradients of tasks as an adaptive weight to detect when an auxiliary loss is helpful to the main loss. We show that our approach is guaranteed to converge to critical points of the main task and demonstrate the practical usefulness of the proposed algorithm in a few domains: multi-task supervised learning on subsets of ImageNet, reinforcement learning on gridworld, and reinforcement learning on Atari games.

    12/05/2018 ∙ by Yunshu Du, et al. ∙ 10 share

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  • Information asymmetry in KL-regularized RL

    Many real world tasks exhibit rich structure that is repeated across different parts of the state space or in time. In this work we study the possibility of leveraging such repeated structure to speed up and regularize learning. We start from the KL regularized expected reward objective which introduces an additional component, a default policy. Instead of relying on a fixed default policy, we learn it from data. But crucially, we restrict the amount of information the default policy receives, forcing it to learn reusable behaviors that help the policy learn faster. We formalize this strategy and discuss connections to information bottleneck approaches and to the variational EM algorithm. We present empirical results in both discrete and continuous action domains and demonstrate that, for certain tasks, learning a default policy alongside the policy can significantly speed up and improve learning.

    05/03/2019 ∙ by Alexandre Galashov, et al. ∙ 6 share

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  • A RAD approach to deep mixture models

    Flow based models such as Real NVP are an extremely powerful approach to density estimation. However, existing flow based models are restricted to transforming continuous densities over a continuous input space into similarly continuous distributions over continuous latent variables. This makes them poorly suited for modeling and representing discrete structures in data distributions, for example class membership or discrete symmetries. To address this difficulty, we present a normalizing flow architecture which relies on domain partitioning using locally invertible functions, and possesses both real and discrete valued latent variables. This Real and Discrete (RAD) approach retains the desirable normalizing flow properties of exact sampling, exact inference, and analytically computable probabilities, while at the same time allowing simultaneous modeling of both continuous and discrete structure in a data distribution.

    03/18/2019 ∙ by Laurent Dinh, et al. ∙ 4 share

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  • Relational recurrent neural networks

    Memory-based neural networks model temporal data by leveraging an ability to remember information for long periods. It is unclear, however, whether they also have an ability to perform complex relational reasoning with the information they remember. Here, we first confirm our intuitions that standard memory architectures may struggle at tasks that heavily involve an understanding of the ways in which entities are connected -- i.e., tasks involving relational reasoning. We then improve upon these deficits by using a new memory module -- a Relational Memory Core (RMC) -- which employs multi-head dot product attention to allow memories to interact. Finally, we test the RMC on a suite of tasks that may profit from more capable relational reasoning across sequential information, and show large gains in RL domains (e.g. Mini PacMan), program evaluation, and language modeling, achieving state-of-the-art results on the WikiText-103, Project Gutenberg, and GigaWord datasets.

    06/05/2018 ∙ by Adam Santoro, et al. ∙ 2 share

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  • Mix&Match - Agent Curricula for Reinforcement Learning

    We introduce Mix&Match (M&M) - a training framework designed to facilitate rapid and effective learning in RL agents, especially those that would be too slow or too challenging to train otherwise. The key innovation is a procedure that allows us to automatically form a curriculum over agents. Through such a curriculum we can progressively train more complex agents by, effectively, bootstrapping from solutions found by simpler agents. In contradistinction to typical curriculum learning approaches, we do not gradually modify the tasks or environments presented, but instead use a process to gradually alter how the policy is represented internally. We show the broad applicability of our method by demonstrating significant performance gains in three different experimental setups: (1) We train an agent able to control more than 700 actions in a challenging 3D first-person task; using our method to progress through an action-space curriculum we achieve both faster training and better final performance than one obtains using traditional methods. (2) We further show that M&M can be used successfully to progress through a curriculum of architectural variants defining an agents internal state. (3) Finally, we illustrate how a variant of our method can be used to improve agent performance in a multitask setting.

    06/05/2018 ∙ by Wojciech Marian Czarnecki, et al. ∙ 2 share

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  • Revisiting Natural Gradient for Deep Networks

    We evaluate natural gradient, an algorithm originally proposed in Amari (1997), for learning deep models. The contributions of this paper are as follows. We show the connection between natural gradient and three other recently proposed methods for training deep models: Hessian-Free (Martens, 2010), Krylov Subspace Descent (Vinyals and Povey, 2012) and TONGA (Le Roux et al., 2008). We describe how one can use unlabeled data to improve the generalization error obtained by natural gradient and empirically evaluate the robustness of the algorithm to the ordering of the training set compared to stochastic gradient descent. Finally we extend natural gradient to incorporate second order information alongside the manifold information and provide a benchmark of the new algorithm using a truncated Newton approach for inverting the metric matrix instead of using a diagonal approximation of it.

    01/16/2013 ∙ by Razvan Pascanu, et al. ∙ 0 share

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