Tag Archives: Actor-critic

A good intro about actor-critic and decision making without model on MDPs

J. Wang and I. C. Paschalidis, “An Actor-Critic Algorithm With Second-Order Actor and Critic,” in IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, vol. 62, no. 6, pp. 2689-2703, June 2017.DOI: 10.1109/TAC.2016.2616384.

Actor-critic algorithms solve dynamic decision making problems by optimizing a performance metric of interest over a user-specified parametric class of policies. They employ a combination of an actor, making policy improvement steps, and a critic, computing policy improvement directions. Many existing algorithms use a steepest ascent method to improve the policy, which is known to suffer from slow convergence for ill-conditioned problems. In this paper, we first develop an estimate of the (Hessian) matrix containing the second derivatives of the performance metric with respect to policy parameters. Using this estimate, we introduce a new second-order policy improvement method and couple it with a critic using a second-order learning method. We establish almost sure convergence of the new method to a neighborhood of a policy parameter stationary point. We compare the new algorithm with some existing algorithms in two applications and demonstrate that it leads to significantly faster convergence.