On Many-Actions Policy Gradient
Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 202:25769-25789, 2023.
We study the variance of stochastic policy gradients (SPGs) with many action samples per state. We derive a many-actions optimality condition, which determines when many-actions SPG yields lower variance as compared to a single-action agent with proportionally extended trajectory. We propose Model-Based Many-Actions (MBMA), an approach leveraging dynamics models for many-actions sampling in the context of SPG. MBMA addresses issues associated with existing implementations of many-actions SPG and yields lower bias and comparable variance to SPG estimated from states in model-simulated rollouts. We find that MBMA bias and variance structure matches that predicted by theory. As a result, MBMA achieves improved sample efficiency and higher returns on a range of continuous action environments as compared to model-free, many-actions, and model-based on-policy SPG baselines.