Go-Explore: a New Approach for Hard-Exploration Problems


    A grand challenge in reinforcement learning is intelligent exploration, especially when rewards are sparse or deceptive. Two Atari games serve as benchmarks for such hard-exploration domains: Montezuma’s Revenge and Pitfall. On both games, current RL algorithms perform poorly, even those with intrinsic motivation, which is the dominant method to improve performance on hard-exploration domains. To address this shortfall, we introduce a new algorithm called Go-Explore. It exploits the following principles: (1) remember previously visited states, (2) first return to a promising state (without exploration), then explore from it, and (3) solve simulated environments through any available means (including by introducing determinism), then robustify via imitation learning. The combined effect of these principles is a dramatic performance improvement on hard-exploration problems. On Montezuma’s Revenge, Go-Explore scores a mean of over 43k points, almost 4 times the previous state of the art. Go-Explore can also harness human-provided domain knowledge and, when augmented with it, scores a mean of over 650k points on Montezuma’s Revenge. Its max performance of nearly 18 million surpasses the human world record, meeting even the strictest definition of “superhuman” performance. On Pitfall, Go-Explore with domain knowledge is the first algorithm to score above zero. Its mean score of almost 60k points exceeds expert human performance. Because Go-Explore produces high-performing demonstrations automatically and cheaply, it also outperforms imitation learning work where humans provide solution demonstrations. Go-Explore opens up many new research directions into improving it and weaving its insights into current RL algorithms. It may also enable progress on previously unsolvable hard-exploration problems in many domains, especially those that harness a simulator during training (e.g. robotics).


    Adrien Ecoffet, Joost Huizinga, Joel Lehman, Kenneth O. Stanley, Jeff Clune

    Full Paper

    ‘Go-Explore: a New Approach for Hard-Exploration Problems’ (PDF at arXiv)

    Uber AI

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    Adrien Ecoffet
    Adrien Ecoffet is a research scientist with Uber AI Labs.
    Joost Huizinga
    Joost Huizinga is a research scientist with Uber AI.
    Joel Lehman
    Joel Lehman was previously an assistant professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, and researches neural networks, evolutionary algorithms, and reinforcement learning.
    Kenneth O. Stanley
    Before joining Uber AI Labs full time, Ken was an associate professor of computer science at the University of Central Florida (he is currently on leave). He is a leader in neuroevolution (combining neural networks with evolutionary techniques), where he helped invent prominent algorithms such as NEAT, CPPNs, HyperNEAT, and novelty search. His ideas have also reached a broader audience through the recent popular science book, Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective.
    Jeff Clune
    Jeff Clune is the Loy and Edith Harris Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Wyoming and a Senior Research Manager and founding member of Uber AI Labs, which was formed after Uber acquired the startup Geometric Intelligence. Jeff focuses on robotics and training neural networks via deep learning and deep reinforcement learning. He has also researched open questions in evolutionary biology using computational models of evolution, including studying the evolutionary origins of modularity, hierarchy, and evolvability. Prior to becoming a professor, he was a Research Scientist at Cornell University, received a PhD in computer science and an MA in philosophy from Michigan State University, and received a BA in philosophy from the University of Michigan. More about Jeff’s research can be found at JeffClune.com