Curiosity in Hindsight: Intrinsic Exploration in Stochastic Environments
Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 202:14780-14816, 2023.
Consider the problem of exploration in sparse-reward or reward-free environments, such as in Montezuma’s Revenge. In the curiosity-driven paradigm, the agent is rewarded for how much each realized outcome differs from their predicted outcome. But using predictive error as intrinsic motivation is fragile in stochastic environments, as the agent may become trapped by high-entropy areas of the state-action space, such as a "noisy TV". In this work, we study a natural solution derived from structural causal models of the world: Our key idea is to learn representations of the future that capture precisely the unpredictable aspects of each outcome—which we use as additional input for predictions, such that intrinsic rewards only reflect the predictable aspects of world dynamics. First, we propose incorporating such hindsight representations into models to disentangle "noise" from "novelty", yielding Curiosity in Hindsight: a simple and scalable generalization of curiosity that is robust to stochasticity. Second, we instantiate this framework for the recently introduced BYOL-Explore algorithm as our prime example, resulting in the noise-robust BYOL-Hindsight. Third, we illustrate its behavior under a variety of different stochasticities in a grid world, and find improvements over BYOL-Explore in hard-exploration Atari games with sticky actions. Notably, we show state-of-the-art results in exploring Montezuma’s Revenge with sticky actions, while preserving performance in the non-sticky setting.