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You Only Live Once: Single-Life Reinforcement Learning
Annie Chen · Archit Sharma · Sergey Levine · Chelsea Finn

Reinforcement learning algorithms are typically designed to learn a performant policy that can repeatedly and autonomously complete a task, usually starting from scratch. However, in many real-world situations, the goal might not be to learn a policy that can do the task repeatedly, but simply to perform a new task successfully once in a single trial. For example, imagine a disaster relief robot tasked with retrieving an item from a fallen building, where it cannot get direct supervision from humans. It must retrieve this object within one test-time trial, and must do so while tackling unknown obstacles, though it may leverage knowledge it has of the building before the disaster. We formalize this problem setting, which we call single-life reinforcement learning (SLRL), where an agent must complete a task within a single episode without interventions, utilizing its prior experience while contending with some form of novelty. SLRL provides a natural setting to study the challenge of autonomously adapting to unfamiliar situations, and we find that algorithms designed for standard episodic reinforcement learning often struggle to recover from out-of-distribution states in this setting. Motivated by this observation, we propose an algorithm, Q-weighted adversarial learning (QWALE), which employs a distribution matching strategy that leverages the agent's prior experience as guidance in novel situations. Our experiments on several single-life continuous control problems indicate that methods based on our distribution matching formulation are 20-60% more successful because they can more quickly recover from novel states."

Author Information

Annie Chen (Stanford University)
Archit Sharma (Stanford University)
Sergey Levine (UC Berkeley)
Sergey Levine

Sergey Levine received a BS and MS in Computer Science from Stanford University in 2009, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 2014. He joined the faculty of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley in fall 2016. His work focuses on machine learning for decision making and control, with an emphasis on deep learning and reinforcement learning algorithms. Applications of his work include autonomous robots and vehicles, as well as applications in other decision-making domains. His research includes developing algorithms for end-to-end training of deep neural network policies that combine perception and control, scalable algorithms for inverse reinforcement learning, deep reinforcement learning algorithms, and more

Chelsea Finn (Stanford)

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