Actor-Critic based Improper Reinforcement Learning

Mohammadi Zaki, Avinash Mohan, Aditya Gopalan, Shie Mannor

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


We consider an improper reinforcement learning setting where a learner is given M base controllers for an unknown Markov decision process, and wishes to combine them optimally to produce a potentially new controller that can outperform each of the base ones. This can be useful in tuning across controllers, learnt possibly in mismatched or simulated environments, to obtain a good controller for a given target environment with relatively few trials. Towards this, we propose two algorithms: (1) a Policy Gradient-based approach; and (2) an algorithm that can switch between a simple Actor-Critic (AC) based scheme and a Natural Actor-Critic (NAC) scheme depending on the available information. Both algorithms operate over a class of improper mixtures of the given controllers. For the first case, we derive convergence rate guarantees assuming access to a gradient oracle. For the AC-based approach we provide convergence rate guarantees to a stationary point in the basic AC case and to a global optimum in the NAC case. Numerical results on (i) the standard control theoretic benchmark of stabilizing an cartpole; and (ii) a constrained queueing task show that our improper policy optimization algorithm can stabilize the system even when the base policies at its disposal are unstable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25867-25919
Number of pages53
JournalProceedings of Machine Learning Research
StatePublished - 2022
Event39th International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML 2022 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: 17 Jul 202223 Jul 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Statistics and Probability


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