Learning Constraints to Represent Human Preferences

David Lindner Active Learning, Preference Learning, Reinforcement Learning

Human preferences often naturally decompose into rewards and constraints. For example, imagine you have an autonomous car and tell it to drive you to the grocery store. This task has a goal that is naturally described by a reward function, such as the distance to the grocery store. However, other implicit parts of the task, such as following driving rules or making sure the drive is comfortable, can be naturally described as constraints.

A key challenge for deploying AI systems in the real world is to ensure that they act “in accordance with their users’ intentions’’ – that they do what we want them to do. The most common way of communicating to an AI system what we want it to do is through designing a reward (or cost) function. However, in practice, it is challenging to specify good reward functions, and misspecified reward functions can lead to all kinds of undesired behavior.… Read more

How to explore to find a robust control policy?

Sebastian Curi Reinforcement Learning

Figure 1: We propose an algorithm that learns a policy for continuous control tasks even when a worst-case adversary is present.

This is a post for the work Combining Pessimism with Optimism for Robust and Efficient Model-Based Deep Reinforcement Learning (Curi et al., 2021), jointly with Ilija Bogunovic and Andreas Krause, that appeared in ICML 2021. It is a follow-up on Efficient Model-Based reinforcement Learning Through Optimistic Policy Search and Planning (Curi et al., 2020), that appeared in NeuRIPS 2020 (See blog post)


In this work, we address the challenge of finding a robust policy in continuous control tasks. As a motivating example, consider designing a braking system on an autonomous car. As this is a highly complex task, we want to learn a policy that performs this maneuver. One can imagine many real-world conditions and simulate them during training time e.g., road conditions, brightness, tire pressure, laden weight, or actuator wear.… Read more

Sample efficient reward learning for reinforcement learning

David Lindner Active Learning, Preference Learning, Reinforcement Learning

Figure 1: The robot needs to learn the user’s food preferences to decide what to collect. We propose a method that can significantly reduce the number of queries necessary by focusing on queries that are informative about which policy is optimal.

Recently, reinforcement learning (RL) has shown impressive performance on tasks with a well-specified reward function, such as Atari games. Unfortunately, a reward function is often not available in the real world. Say you want to train an RL agent to drive a car. What is a good reward function for driving? Often researchers hand-craft complicated reward functions for such tasks, but this is cumbersome and prone to error. More generally, misspecified rewards can lead to unintended and unsafe behavior due to specification gaming.

A promising alternative is to learn a model of the reward from human feedback. By, for example, asking humans to compare trajectories and judge which one solves a task better, we can learn a reward function for tasks that are difficult for humans to specify manually.… Read more