Models for Autonomously Motivated Exploration in Reinforcement Learning
(invited lecture for ALT 2011)

Authors: Peter Auer1, Shiau Hong Lim1, and Chris Watkins2

Affiliation1: Chair for Information Technology
Department of Mathematics and Information Technology
University of Leoben, Austria
2Department of Computer Science
Royal Holloway, University of London.

Abstract. One of the striking differences between current reinforcement learning algorithms and early human learning is that animals and infants appear to explore their environments with autonomous purpose, in a manner appropriate to their current level of skills. An important intuition for autonomously motivated exploration was proposed by Schmidhuber [1], [2]: an agent should be interested in making observations that reduce its uncertainty about future observations. However, there is not yet a theoretical analysis of the usefulness of autonomous exploration in respect to the overall performance of a learning agent. We discuss models for a learning agent's autonomous exploration and present some recent results. In particular, we investigate the exploration time for navigating effectively in a Markov Decsion Process (MDP) without rewards, and we consider extensions to MDPs with infinite state spaces.


[1] J. Schmidhuber.
    A Possibility for Implementing Curiosity and Boredom in
    Model-Building Neural Controllers.
    In J. A. Meyer and S. W. Wilson, editors, International
    Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior: From Animals to Animats,
    pages 222--227. MIT Press, 1991.

[2] J. Schmidhuber.
    Developmental Robotics, Optimal Artificial Curiosity, Creativity,
    Music, and the Fine Arts.
    Connection Science, 18(2):173--187, 2006.

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