Model-free deep reinforcement learning is sample inefficient. One hypothesis -- speculated, but not confirmed -- is that catastrophic interference within an environment inhibits learning. We test this hypothesis through a large-scale empirical study in the Arcade Learning Environment (ALE) and, indeed, find supporting evidence. We show that interference causes performance to plateau; the network cannot train on segments beyond the plateau without degrading the policy used to reach there. By synthetically controlling for interference, we demonstrate performance boosts across architectures, learning algorithms and environments. A more refined analysis shows that learning one segment of a game often increases prediction errors elsewhere. Our study provides a clear empirical link between catastrophic interference and sample efficiency in reinforcement learning.
- Pub Date:
- February 2020
- Computer Science - Machine Learning;
- Computer Science - Artificial Intelligence;
- Statistics - Machine Learning
- First two authors contributed equally. Code available to reproduce experiments at https://github.com/google-research/google-research/tree/master/memento