Policy Search: Any Local Optimum Enjoys a Global Performance Guarantee

06/06/2013 ∙ by Bruno Scherrer, et al. ∙ 0

Local Policy Search is a popular reinforcement learning approach for handling large state spaces. Formally, it searches locally in a paramet erized policy space in order to maximize the associated value function averaged over some predefined distribution. It is probably commonly b elieved that the best one can hope in general from such an approach is to get a local optimum of this criterion. In this article, we show th e following surprising result: any (approximate) local optimum enjoys a global performance guarantee. We compare this g uarantee with the one that is satisfied by Direct Policy Iteration, an approximate dynamic programming algorithm that does some form of Poli cy Search: if the approximation error of Local Policy Search may generally be bigger (because local search requires to consider a space of s tochastic policies), we argue that the concentrability coefficient that appears in the performance bound is much nicer. Finally, we discuss several practical and theoretical consequences of our analysis.



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