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Block Contextual MDPs for Continual Learning
Shagun Sodhani · Franziska Meier · Joelle Pineau · Amy Zhang
Event URL: https://openreview.net/forum?id=IRa5JCfqEMA »

In reinforcement learning (RL), when defining a Markov Decision Process (MDP), the environment dynamics is implicitly assumed to be stationary. This assumption of stationarity, while simplifying, can be unrealistic in many scenarios. In the continual reinforcement learning scenario, the sequence of tasks is another source of nonstationarity. In this work, we propose to examine this continual reinforcement learning setting through the Block Contextual MDP (BC-MDP) framework, which enables us to relax the assumption of stationarity. This framework challenges RL algorithms to handle both nonstationarity and rich observation settings and, by additionally leveraging smoothness properties, enables us to study generalization bounds for this setting. Finally, we take inspiration from adaptive control to propose a novel algorithm that addresses the challenges introduced by this more realistic BC-MDP setting, allows for zero-shot adaptation at evaluation time, and achieves strong performance on several nonstationary environments.

Author Information

Shagun Sodhani (Facebook AI Research)
Franziska Meier (Facebook AI Research)
Joelle Pineau (McGill University)

Joelle Pineau is an Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar at McGill University where she co-directs the Reasoning and Learning Lab. She also leads the Facebook AI Research lab in Montreal, Canada. She holds a BASc in Engineering from the University of Waterloo, and an MSc and PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Pineau's research focuses on developing new models and algorithms for planning and learning in complex partially-observable domains. She also works on applying these algorithms to complex problems in robotics, health care, games and conversational agents. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research and the Journal of Machine Learning Research and is currently President of the International Machine Learning Society. She is a recipient of NSERC's E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship (2018), a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and in 2016 was named a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists by the Royal Society of Canada.

Amy Zhang (Facebook, UC Berkeley)

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