Mark Ring, Tom Schaul. Q-error as a Selection Mechanism in Modular Reinforcement-Learning Systems. Proceedings of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI-2011, Barcelona), 2011.


This paper introduces a novel multi-modular method for reinforcement learning. A multi-modular system is one that partitions the learning task among a set of experts (modules), where each expert is incapable of solving the entire task by itself. There are many advantages to splitting up large tasks in this way, but existing methods face difficulties when choosing which module(s) should contribute to the agent's actions at any particular moment. We introduce a novel selection mechanism where every module, besides calculating a set of action values, also estimates its own error for the current input. The selection mechanism combines each module's estimate of long-term reward and self-error to produce a score by which the next module is chosen. As a result, the modules can use their resources effectively and efficiently divide up the task. The system is shown to learn complex tasks even when the individual modules use only linear function approximators.