Understanding Learned Reward Functions


In many real-world tasks, it is not possible to procedurally specify an RL agent’s reward function. In such cases, a reward function must instead be learned from interacting with and observing humans. However, current techniques for reward learning may fail to produce reward functions which accurately reflect user preferences. Absent significant advances in reward learning, it is thus important to be able to audit learned reward functions to verify whether they truly capture user preferences. In this paper, we investigate techniques for interpreting learned reward functions. In particular, we apply saliency methods to identify failure modes and predict the robustness of reward functions. We find that learned reward functions often implement surprising algorithms that rely on contingent aspects of the environment. We also discover that existing interpretability techniques often attend to irrelevant changes in reward output, suggesting that reward interpretability may need significantly different methods from policy interpretability.

Deep Reinforcement Learning Workshop at NeurIPS
PhD Candidate in Artificial Intelligence

My research interests include value learning and robustness of deep RL.