Decision Making in Non-Stationary Environments with Policy-Augmented Search


Sequential decision-making under uncertainty is present in many important problems. Two popular approaches for tackling such problems are reinforcement learning and online search (e.g., Monte Carlo tree search). While the former learns a policy by interacting with the environment (typically done before execution), the latter uses a generative model of the environment to sample promising action trajectories at decision time. Decision-making is particularly challenging in non-stationary environments, where the environment in which an agent operates can change over time. Both approaches have shortcomings in such settings – on the one hand, policies learned before execution become stale when the environment changes and relearning takes both time and computational effort. Online search, on the other hand, can return sub-optimal actions when there are limitations on allowed runtime. In this paper, we introduce textitPolicy-Augmented Monte Carlo tree search (PA-MCTS), which combines action-value estimates from an out-of-date policy with an online search using an up-to-date model of the environment. We prove theoretical results showing conditions under which PA-MCTS selects the one-step optimal action and also bound the error accrued while following PA-MCTS as a policy. We compare and contrast our approach with AlphaZero, another hybrid planning approach, and Deep Q Learning on several OpenAI Gym environments. Through extensive experiments, we show that under non-stationary settings with limited time constraints, PA-MCTS outperforms these baselines.

22nd International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS)