Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Optimal Convergence Rate for Exact Policy Mirror Descent in Discounted Markov Decision Processes

Emmeran Johnson · Ciara Pike-Burke · Patrick Rebeschini

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1900
[ ]
[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Tue 12 Dec 8:45 a.m. PST — 10:45 a.m. PST

Abstract: Policy Mirror Descent (PMD) is a general family of algorithms that covers a wide range of novel and fundamental methods in reinforcement learning. Motivated by the instability of policy iteration (PI) with inexact policy evaluation, unregularised PMD algorithmically regularises the policy improvement step of PI without regularising the objective function. With exact policy evaluation, PI is known to converge linearly with a rate given by the discount factor $\gamma$ of a Markov Decision Process. In this work, we bridge the gap between PI and PMD with exact policy evaluation and show that the dimension-free $\gamma$-rate of PI can be achieved by the general family of unregularised PMD algorithms under an adaptive step-size. We show that both the rate and step-size are unimprovable for PMD: we provide matching lower bounds that demonstrate that the $\gamma$-rate is optimal for PMD methods as well as PI and that the adaptive step-size is necessary to achieve it. Our work is the first to relate PMD to rate-optimality and step-size necessity. Our study of the convergence of PMD avoids the use of the performance difference lemma, which leads to a direct analysis of independent interest. We also extend the analysis to the inexact setting and establish the first dimension-optimal sample complexity for unregularised PMD under a generative model, improving upon the best-known result.

Chat is not available.