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# Reward-machine-guided, self-paced reinforcement learning

*Proceedings of the Thirty-Ninth Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence*, PMLR 216:1121-1131, 2023.

#### Abstract

Self-paced reinforcement learning (RL) aims to improve the data efficiency of learning by automatically creating sequences, namely curricula, of probability distributions over contexts. However, existing techniques for self-paced RL fail in long-horizon planning tasks that involve temporally extended behaviors. We hypothesize that taking advantage of prior knowledge about the underlying task structure can improve the effectiveness of self-paced RL. We develop a self-paced RL algorithm guided by reward machines, i.e., a type of finite-state machine that encodes the underlying task structure. The algorithm integrates reward machines in 1) the update of the policy and value functions obtained by any RL algorithm of choice, and 2) the update of the automated curriculum that generates context distributions. Our empirical results evidence that the proposed algorithm achieves optimal behavior reliably even in cases in which existing baselines cannot make any meaningful progress. It also decreases the curriculum length and reduces the variance in the curriculum generation process by up to one-fourth and four orders of magnitude, respectively.