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Hands-On Reinforcement Learning with Python

By Sudharsan Ravichandiran
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  1. Free Chapter
    Introduction to Reinforcement Learning
About this book
Reinforcement Learning (RL) is the trending and most promising branch of artificial intelligence. Hands-On Reinforcement learning with Python will help you master not only the basic reinforcement learning algorithms but also the advanced deep reinforcement learning algorithms. The book starts with an introduction to Reinforcement Learning followed by OpenAI Gym, and TensorFlow. You will then explore various RL algorithms and concepts, such as Markov Decision Process, Monte Carlo methods, and dynamic programming, including value and policy iteration. This example-rich guide will introduce you to deep reinforcement learning algorithms, such as Dueling DQN, DRQN, A3C, PPO, and TRPO. You will also learn about imagination-augmented agents, learning from human preference, DQfD, HER, and many more of the recent advancements in reinforcement learning. By the end of the book, you will have all the knowledge and experience needed to implement reinforcement learning and deep reinforcement learning in your projects, and you will be all set to enter the world of artificial intelligence.
Publication date:
June 2018
Publisher
Packt
Pages
318
ISBN
9781788836524

 

Introduction to Reinforcement Learning

Reinforcement learning (RL) is a branch of machine learning where the learning occurs via interacting with an environment. It is goal-oriented learning where the learner is not taught what actions to take; instead, the learner learns from the consequence of its actions. It is growing rapidly with a wide variety of algorithms and it is one of the most active areas of research in artificial intelligence (AI).

In this chapter, you will learn about the following:

  • Fundamental concepts of RL
  • RL algorithm
  • Agent environment interface
  • Types of RL environments
  • RL platforms
  • Applications of RL
 

What is RL?

Consider that you are teaching the dog to catch a ball, but you cannot teach the dog explicitly to catch a ball; instead, you will just throw a ball, and every time the dog catches the ball, you will give it a cookie. If it fails to catch the ball, you will not give a cookie. The dog will figure out what actions made it receive a cookie and will repeat those actions.

Similarly, in a RL environment, you will not teach the agent what to do or how to do instead, you will give a reward to the agent for each action it does. The reward may be positive or negative. Then the agent will start performing actions which made it receive a positive reward. Thus, it is a trial and error process. In the previous analogy, the dog represents the agent. Giving a cookie to the dog upon catching the ball is a positive reward, and not giving a cookie is a negative reward.

There might be delayed rewards. You may not get a reward at each step. A reward may be given only after the completion of a task. In some cases, you get a reward at each step to find out that whether you are making any mistakes.

Imagine you want to teach a robot to walk without getting stuck by hitting a mountain, but you will not explicitly teach the robot not to go in the direction of the mountain:

Instead, if the robot hits and get stuck on the mountain, you will take away ten points so that robot will understand that hitting the mountain will result in a negative reward and it will not go in that direction again:

You will give 20 points to the robot when it walks in the right direction without getting stuck. So the robot will understand which is the right path and will try to maximize the rewards by going in the right direction:

The RL agent can explore different actions which might provide a good reward or it can exploit (use) the previous action which resulted in a good reward. If the RL agent explores different actions, there is a great possibility that the agent will receive a poor reward as all actions are not going to be the best one. If the RL agent exploits only the known best action, there is also a great possibility of missing out on the best action, which might provide a better reward. There is always a trade-off between exploration and exploitation. We cannot perform both exploration and exploitation at the same time. We will discuss the exploration-exploitation dilemma in detail in the upcoming chapters.

About the Author
  • Sudharsan Ravichandiran

    Sudharsan Ravichandiran is a data scientist and artificial intelligence enthusiast. He holds a Bachelors in Information Technology from Anna University. His area of research focuses on practical implementations of deep learning and reinforcement learning including natural language processing and computer vision. He is an open-source contributor and loves answering questions on Stack Overflow.

    Browse publications by this author
Latest Reviews (7 reviews total)
I really help me lots and look forward to seeing any special discount from you.
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Equations unreadable (extremely small) on the Amazon ecosystem (.mobi format on Kindle readers). Language errors at several points of the book.
Hands-On Reinforcement Learning with Python
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