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# Dealing With Non-stationarity in Decentralized Cooperative Multi-Agent Deep Reinforcement Learning via Multi-Timescale Learning

*Proceedings of The 2nd Conference on Lifelong Learning Agents*, PMLR 232:376-398, 2023.

#### Abstract

Decentralized cooperative multi-agent deep reinforcement learning (MARL) can be a versatile learning framework, particularly in scenarios where centralized training is either not possible or not practical. One of the critical challenges in decentralized deep MARL is the non-stationarity of the learning environment when multiple agents are learning concurrently. A commonly used and efficient scheme for decentralized MARL is independent learning in which agents concurrently update their policies independently of each other. We first show that independent learning does not always converge, while sequential learning where agents update their policies one after another in a sequence is guaranteed to converge to an agent-by-agent optimal solution. In sequential learning, when one agent updates its policy, all other agent’s policies are kept fixed, alleviating the challenge of non-stationarity due to simultaneous updates in other agents’ policies. However, it can be slow because only one agent is learning at any time. Therefore it might also not always be practical. In this work, we propose a decentralized cooperative MARL algorithm based on multi-timescale learning. In multi-timescale learning, all agents learn simultaneously, but at different learning rates. In our proposed method, when one agent updates its policy, other agents are allowed to update their policies as well, but at a slower rate. This speeds up sequential learning, while also minimizing non-stationarity caused by other agents updating concurrently. Multi-timescale learning outperforms state-of-the-art decentralized learning methods on a set of challenging multi-agent cooperative tasks in the epymarl benchmark. This can be seen as a first step towards more general decentralized cooperative deep MARL methods based on multi-timescale learning.