VA-learning as a more efficient alternative to Q-learning
Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 202:33739-33757, 2023.
In reinforcement learning, the advantage function is critical for policy improvement, but is often extracted from a learned Q-function. A natural question is: Why not learn the advantage function directly? In this work, we introduce VA-learning, which directly learns advantage function and value function using bootstrapping, without explicit reference to Q-functions. VA-learning learns off-policy and enjoys similar theoretical guarantees as Q-learning. Thanks to the direct learning of advantage function and value function, VA-learning improves the sample efficiency over Q-learning both in tabular implementations and deep RL agents on Atari-57 games. We also identify a close connection between VA-learning and the dueling architecture, which partially explains why a simple architectural change to DQN agents tends to improve performance.