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Many-agent Reinforcement Learning

Yang, Yaodong; (2021) Many-agent Reinforcement Learning. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Multi-agent reinforcement learning (RL) solves the problem of how each agent should behave optimally in a stochastic environment in which multiple agents are learning simultaneously. It is an interdisciplinary domain with a long history that lies in the joint area of psychology, control theory, game theory, reinforcement learning, and deep learning. Following the remarkable success of the AlphaGO series in single-agent RL, 2019 was a booming year that witnessed significant advances in multi-agent RL techniques; impressive breakthroughs have been made on developing AIs that outperform humans on many challenging tasks, especially multi-player video games. Nonetheless, one of the key challenges of multi-agent RL techniques is the scalability; it is still non-trivial to design efficient learning algorithms that can solve tasks including far more than two agents ($N \gg 2$), which I name by \emph{many-agent reinforcement learning} (MARL\footnote{I use the world of ``MARL" to denote multi-agent reinforcement learning with a particular focus on the cases of many agents; otherwise, it is denoted as ``Multi-Agent RL" by default.}) problems. In this thesis, I contribute to tackling MARL problems from four aspects. Firstly, I offer a self-contained overview of multi-agent RL techniques from a game-theoretical perspective. This overview fills the research gap that most of the existing work either fails to cover the recent advances since 2010 or does not pay adequate attention to game theory, which I believe is the cornerstone to solving many-agent learning problems. Secondly, I develop a tractable policy evaluation algorithm -- $\alpha^\alpha$-Rank -- in many-agent systems. The critical advantage of $\alpha^\alpha$-Rank is that it can compute the solution concept of $\alpha$-Rank tractably in multi-player general-sum games with no need to store the entire pay-off matrix. This is in contrast to classic solution concepts such as Nash equilibrium which is known to be $PPAD$-hard in even two-player cases. $\alpha^\alpha$-Rank allows us, for the first time, to practically conduct large-scale multi-agent evaluations. Thirdly, I introduce a scalable policy learning algorithm -- mean-field MARL -- in many-agent systems. The mean-field MARL method takes advantage of the mean-field approximation from physics, and it is the first provably convergent algorithm that tries to break the curse of dimensionality for MARL tasks. With the proposed algorithm, I report the first result of solving the Ising model and multi-agent battle games through a MARL approach. Fourthly, I investigate the many-agent learning problem in open-ended meta-games (i.e., the game of a game in the policy space). Specifically, I focus on modelling the behavioural diversity in meta-games, and developing algorithms that guarantee to enlarge diversity during training. The proposed metric based on determinantal point processes serves as the first mathematically rigorous definition for diversity. Importantly, the diversity-aware learning algorithms beat the existing state-of-the-art game solvers in terms of exploitability by a large margin. On top of the algorithmic developments, I also contribute two real-world applications of MARL techniques. Specifically, I demonstrate the great potential of applying MARL to study the emergent population dynamics in nature, and model diverse and realistic interactions in autonomous driving. Both applications embody the prospect that MARL techniques could achieve huge impacts in the real physical world, outside of purely video games.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Many-agent Reinforcement Learning
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10124273
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