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Weak Convergence Properties of Constrained Emphatic Temporal-difference Learning with Constant and Slowly Diminishing Stepsize

Huizhen Yu; 17(219):1−58, 2016.


We consider the emphatic temporal-difference (TD) algorithm, ETD($\lambda$), for learning the value functions of stationary policies in a discounted, finite state and action Markov decision process. The ETD($\lambda$) algorithm was recently proposed by Sutton, Mahmood, and White (2016) to solve a long-standing divergence problem of the standard TD algorithm when it is applied to off- policy training, where data from an exploratory policy are used to evaluate other policies of interest. The almost sure convergence of ETD($\lambda$) has been proved in our recent work under general off-policy training conditions, but for a narrow range of diminishing stepsize. In this paper we present convergence results for constrained versions of ETD($\lambda$) with constant stepsize and with diminishing stepsize from a broad range. Our results characterize the asymptotic behavior of the trajectory of iterates produced by those algorithms, and are derived by combining key properties of ETD($\lambda$) with powerful convergence theorems from the weak convergence methods in stochastic approximation theory. For the case of constant stepsize, in addition to analyzing the behavior of the algorithms in the limit as the stepsize parameter approaches zero, we also analyze their behavior for a fixed stepsize and bound the deviations of their averaged iterates from the desired solution. These results are obtained by exploiting the weak Feller property of the Markov chains associated with the algorithms, and by using ergodic theorems for weak Feller Markov chains, in conjunction with the convergence results we get from the weak convergence methods. Besides ETD($\lambda$), our analysis also applies to the off-policy TD($\lambda$) algorithm, when the divergence issue is avoided by setting $\lambda$ sufficiently large. It yields, for that case, new results on the asymptotic convergence properties of constrained off-policy TD($\lambda$) with constant or slowly diminishing stepsize.

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