Mirror Learning: A Unifying Framework of Policy Optimisation
Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 162:7825-7844, 2022.
Modern deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms are motivated by either the general policy improvement (GPI) or trust-region learning (TRL) frameworks. However, algorithms that strictly respect these theoretical frameworks have proven unscalable. Surprisingly, the only known scalable algorithms violate the GPI/TRL assumptions, e.g. due to required regularisation or other heuristics. The current explanation of their empirical success is essentially “by analogy”: they are deemed approximate adaptations of theoretically sound methods. Unfortunately, studies have shown that in practice these algorithms differ greatly from their conceptual ancestors. In contrast, in this paper, we introduce a novel theoretical framework, named Mirror Learning, which provides theoretical guarantees to a large class of algorithms, including TRPO and PPO. While the latter two exploit the flexibility of our framework, GPI and TRL fit in merely as pathologically restrictive corner cases thereof. This suggests that the empirical performance of state-of-the-art methods is a direct consequence of their theoretical properties, rather than of aforementioned approximate analogies. Mirror learning sets us free to boldly explore novel, theoretically sound RL algorithms, a thus far uncharted wonderland.