Distilling Policy Distillation

arXiv 2019

The transfer of knowledge from one policy to another is an important tool in Deep Reinforcement Learning. This process, referred to as distillation, has been used to great success, for example, by enhancing the optimisation of agents, leading to stronger performance faster, on harder domains [26, 32, 5, 8]. Despite the widespread use and conceptual simplicity of distillation, many different formulations are used in practice, and the subtle variations between them can often drastically change the performance and the resulting objective that is being optimised. In this work, we rigorously explore the entire landscape of policy distillation, comparing the motivations and strengths of each variant through theoretical and empirical analysis. Our results point to three distillation techniques, that are preferred depending on specifics of the task. Specifically a newly proposed expected entropy regularised distillation allows for quicker learning in a wide range of situations, while still guaranteeing convergence.

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