Sequential decision-making problems with multiple objectives arise naturally in practice and pose unique challenges for research in decision-theoretic planning and learning, which has largely focused on single-objective settings. This article surveys algorithms designed for sequential decision-making problems with multiple objectives. Though there is a growing body of literature on this subject, little of it makes explicit under what circumstances special methods are needed to solve multi-objective problems. Therefore, we identify three distinct scenarios in which converting such a problem to a single-objective one is impossible, infeasible, or undesirable. Furthermore, we propose a taxonomy that classifies multi-objective methods according to the applicable scenario, the nature of the scalarization function (which projects multi-objective values to scalar ones), and the type of policies considered. We show how these factors determine the nature of an optimal solution, which can be a single policy, a convex hull, or a Pareto front. Using this taxonomy, we survey the literature on multi-objective methods for planning and learning. Finally, we discuss key applications of such methods and outline opportunities for future work
Many real-world problems, such as network packet routing and the coordination of autonomous vehicles, are naturally modelled as cooperative multi-agent systems. There is a great need for new reinforcement learning methods that can efficiently learn decentralised policies for such systems. To this end, we propose a new multi-agent actor-critic method called counterfactual multi-agent (COMA) policy gradients. COMA uses a centralised critic to estimate the Q-function and decentralised actors to optimise the agents' policies. In addition, to address the challenges of multi-agent credit assignment, it uses a counterfactual baseline that marginalises out a single agent's action, while keeping the other agents' actions fixed. COMA also uses a critic representation that allows the counterfactual baseline to be computed efficiently in a single forward pass. We evaluate COMA in the testbed of StarCraft unit micromanagement, using a decentralised variant with significant partial observability. COMA significantly improves average performance over other multi-agent actor-critic methods in this setting, and the best performing agents are competitive with state-of-the-art centralised controllers that get access to the full state.
In many real-world settings, a team of agents must coordinate their behaviour while acting in a decentralised way. At the same time, it is often possible to train the agents in a centralised fashion in a simulated or laboratory setting, where global state information is available and communication constraints are lifted. Learning joint actionvalues conditioned on extra state information is an attractive way to exploit centralised learning, but the best strategy for then extracting decentralised policies is unclear. Our solution is QMIX, a novel value-based method that can train decentralised policies in a centralised end-to-end fashion. QMIX employs a network that estimates joint action-values as a complex non-linear combination of per-agent values that condition only on local observations. We structurally enforce that the joint-action value is monotonic in the per-agent values, which allows tractable maximisation of the joint action-value in off-policy learning, and guarantees consistency between the centralised and decentralised policies. We evaluate QMIX on a challenging set of StarCraft II micromanagement tasks, and show that QMIX significantly outperforms existing value-based multi-agent reinforcement learning methods.
Abstract. Since traffic jams are ubiquitous in the modern world, optimizing the behavior of traffic lights for efficient traffic flow is a critically important goal. Though most current traffic lights use simple heuristic protocols, more efficient controllers can be discovered automatically via multiagent reinforcement learning, where each agent controls a single traffic light. However, in previous work on this approach, agents select only locally optimal actions without coordinating their behavior. This paper extends this approach to include explicit coordination between neighboring traffic lights. Coordination is achieved using the max-plus algorithm, which estimates the optimal joint action by sending locally optimized messages among connected agents. This paper presents the first application of max-plus to a large-scale problem and thus verifies its efficacy in realistic settings. It also provides empirical evidence that max-plus performs well on cyclic graphs, though it has been proven to converge only for tree-structured graphs. Furthermore, it provides a new understanding of the properties a traffic network must have for such coordination to be beneficial and shows that max-plus outperforms previous methods on networks that possess those properties.
In the last few years, deep multi-agent reinforcement learning (RL) has become a highly active area of research. A particularly challenging class of problems in this area is partially observable, cooperative, multi-agent learning, in which teams of agents must learn to coordinate their behaviour while conditioning only on their private observations. This is an attractive research area since such problems are relevant to a large number of real-world systems and are also more amenable to evaluation than general-sum problems. Standardised environments such as the ALE and MuJoCo have allowed singleagent RL to move beyond toy domains, such as grid worlds. However, there is no comparable benchmark for cooperative multi-agent RL. As a result, most papers in this field use one-off toy problems, making it difficult to measure real progress. In this paper, we propose the StarCraft Multi-Agent Challenge (SMAC) as a benchmark problem to fill this gap. 1 SMAC is based on the popular real-time strategy game StarCraft II and focuses on micromanagement challenges where each unit is controlled by an independent agent that must act based on local observations. We offer a diverse set of challenge scenarios and recommendations for best practices in benchmarking and evaluations. We also open-source a deep multi-agent RL learning framework including state-of-the-art algorithms. 2 We believe that SMAC can provide a standard benchmark environment for years to come. Videos of our best agents for several SMAC scenarios are available at: https://youtu.be/VZ7zmQ_obZ0.
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