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Resetting the Optimizer in Deep RL: An Empirical Study

Kavosh Asadi · Rasool Fakoor · Shoham Sabach

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1410
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[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Tue 12 Dec 3:15 p.m. PST — 5:15 p.m. PST


We focus on the task of approximating the optimal value function in deep reinforcement learning. This iterative process is comprised of solving a sequence of optimization problems where the loss function changes per iteration. The common approach to solving this sequence of problems is to employ modern variants of the stochastic gradient descent algorithm such as Adam. These optimizers maintain their own internal parameters such as estimates of the first-order and the second-order moments of the gradient, and update them over time. Therefore, information obtained in previous iterations is used to solve the optimization problem in the current iteration. We demonstrate that this can contaminate the moment estimates because the optimization landscape can change arbitrarily from one iteration to the next one. To hedge against this negative effect, a simple idea is to reset the internal parameters of the optimizer when starting a new iteration. We empirically investigate this resetting idea by employing various optimizers in conjunction with the Rainbow algorithm. We demonstrate that this simple modification significantly improves the performance of deep RL on the Atari benchmark.

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