School of Computing. Dublin City University. Home Blog Teaching Research Contact My big idea: Ancient Brain 


we build up estimates of Q(x,a) = how good action a is in state x start with Q(x,a) random or zero do for a long time { observe x suggest a according to some algorithm execute a observe y receive reward r(y) or r(x,y) modify Q(x,a) according to some algorithm }
a can be "noop".
Note that having a reward every time step is actually no restriction. The classic delayed reinforcement problem is just a special case with, say, most rewards zero, and only a small number of infrequent rewards nonzero.
The agent observes discrete states of the world x ( , a finite set) and can execute discrete actions a ( , a finite set). Each discrete time step, the agent observes state x, takes action a, observes new state y, and receives immediate reward r.
Transitions are probabilistic, that is, y and r are drawn from stationary probability distributions and , where is the probability that taking action a in state x will lead to state y and is the probability that taking action a in state x will generate reward r. We have and .
Start in state x:
In state x,
taking action b gives a guaranteed reward of 1.5.
Taking action a normally leads to a reward of only 1,
but sometimes leads to a reward of 5.
P_{xa}(y) = 0.8
P_{xa}(z) = 0.2
P_{xa}(w) = 0 for all w other than y,z
(probabilistic transition)
P_{xb}(s) = 1
P_{xb}(w) = 0 for all w other than s
(deterministic transition)
and the stationary property is expressed as:
Probabilistic transitions .
In fact the world above is not exactly an MDP.
Consider:
P ( x_{t+1}=bump 
x_{t}=s_{t}, a_{t}=b_{t},
x_{t1}=s_{t1}, a_{t1}=b_{t1},
... )
P ( bump  wall is N, move N, wall is N, move N, wall is N, move N )
is higher than:
P ( bump  wall is N, move N, wall not visible, move N, wall not visible, move N )
i.e. There isn't simply a constant:
P ( bump  wall is N, move N )
leads to state y, and also leads to state y. But the probability of leading to an immediate reward depends on the agent's policy. If it tends to take action , the value of y will be higher than if it tends to take action . But it will not necessarily learn to take action as a result  that would just be normal learning, where it can tell the states apart. is just as likely a policy because is also rewarded when the value of y increases.
is nonstationary. In fact, the world is what is called a PartiallyObservable MDP.
Q. What simple change would turn the above into a MDP (in fact, a deterministic MDP)?
Observe x Take a (Opponent makes nondeterministic move) Observe y
The set of actions available may differ from state to state. Depending on what we mean by this, this may also possibly be represented within the model, as the special case of an action that when executed (in this particular state, not in general) does nothing:
for all actions a in the "unavailable" set for x .
Note this would not exactly be "do nothing" since you would still get the reward for staying in x. It could therefore be a useful action!
In this:
How do we decide which action to take?
Look at expected reward:
E_{a}(r) = 0.2 (5) + 0.8 (1)
= 1.8
E_{b}(r) = 1 (1.5)
= 1.5
Action a is better.
What do the probabilities mean?
They mean that if you take a 100 times,
you expect 20 5's and 80 1's.
Total reward 180.
If you take b 100 times
you expect 100 1.5's.
Total reward 150.
Maximise E(r).
When we take action a in state x, the reward we expect to receive is:
E(r) = p_{1} r_{1 } + ... + p_{n} r_{n }
≥ p_{1} r_{min } + ... + p_{n} r_{min }
= 1 . r_{min}
You are in state x = (1,5).
Imagine that if you take some action a,
you go to state y with
probabilities:
You can calculate E(r).y Pxa(y) reward (1,8) 0.4 10 (0,8) 0.3 5 (1,5) 0.2 1 (0,5) 0.1 0
But "E(y)" is meaningless.
Consider the sum of the y's times their probabilities
= (1,8) 0.4 + (0,8) 0.3 + (1,5) 0.2 + (0,5) 0.1
= (0.6, 7.1)
You are never in this state when you take a.
In fact, this state doesn't exist.
"0.6" doesn't have a meaning.
The state space is not a continuous space. It is a discrete space of points.
Typically, we don't reward for the correct action, r = r(x,a):
in state x if took action b then reward 1 else reward 0because we don't know the correct action! That's why we're learning.
in state x if got to state z then reward 1 else reward 0
Writing r = r(x,y), the probability of a particular reward r is:
and the expected reward becomes:
That is, normally we never think in terms of  we only think in terms of .
e.g. In the following:
Taking action a in state x,
P(r=5) = 0.2
P(r=0) = 0.4
P(r=3) = 0.3 + 0.1
= 0.4
Question  What is E(r)?
In some models, rewards are associated with states, rather than with transitions, that is, r = r(y). The agent is not just rewarded for arriving at state y  it is also rewarded continually for remaining in state y. This is obviously just a special case of r = r(x,y) with:
and hence:
Reward on transition to good state only: r = r(x,y).
e.g. x = not at waterhole, y = at waterhole.
Problem  may leave state to come back in!
Reward for arriving and staying in good state: r = r(y).