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Yaofeng Desmond Zhong, Jiequn Han, Biswadip Dey, Georgia Olympia Brikis

Differentiable simulation enables gradients to be back-propagated through physics simulations. In this way, one can learn the dynamics and properties of a physics system by gradient-based optimization or embed the whole differentiable simulation as a layer in a deep learning model for downstream tasks, such as planning and control. However, differentiable simulation at its current stage is not perfect and might provide wrong gradients that deteriorate its performance in learning tasks. In this paper, we study differentiable rigid-body simulation with contacts. We find that existing differentiable simulation methods provide inaccurate gradients when the contact normal direction is not fixed - a general situation when the contacts are between two moving objects. We propose to improve gradient computation by continuous collision detection and leverage the time-of-impact (TOI) to calculate the post-collision velocities. We demonstrate our proposed method, referred to as TOI-Velocity, on two optimal control problems. We show that with TOI-Velocity, we are able to learn an optimal control sequence that matches the analytical solution, while without TOI-Velocity, existing differentiable simulation methods fail to do so.

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Jihao Long, Jiequn Han

Function approximation has been an indispensable component in modern reinforcement learning algorithms designed to tackle problems with large state space in high dimensions. This paper reviews the recent results on the error analysis of those reinforcement learning algorithms in the settings of linear or nonlinear approximation, with an emphasis on the approximation error and the estimation error/sample complexity. We discuss different properties related to the approximation error and concrete conditions on the transition probability and reward function under which these properties hold true. The sample complexity in reinforcement learning is more complicated for analysis compared to supervised learning, mainly due to the distribution mismatch phenomenon. With assumptions on the linear structure of the problem, there are various algorithms in the literature that can achieve polynomial sample complexity with respect to the number of features, episode length, and accuracy, although the minimax rate has not been achieved yet. These results rely on the $L^\infty$ and UCB estimation of estimation error, which can handle the distribution mismatch phenomenon. The problem and analysis become much more challenging in the setting of nonlinear function approximation since both $L^\infty$ and UCB estimation are inadequate to help bound the error with a good rate in high dimensions. We discuss different additional assumptions needed to handle the distribution mismatch and derive meaningful results for nonlinear RL problems.

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Mo Zhou, Jiequn Han, Manas Rachh, Carlos Borges

We consider the inverse acoustic obstacle problem for sound-soft star-shaped obstacles in two dimensions wherein the boundary of the obstacle is determined from measurements of the scattered field at a collection of receivers outside the object. One of the standard approaches for solving this problem is to reformulate it as an optimization problem: finding the boundary of the domain that minimizes the $L^2$ distance between computed values of the scattered field and the given measurement data. The optimization problem is computationally challenging since the local set of convexity shrinks with increasing frequency and results in an increasing number of local minima in the vicinity of the true solution. In many practical experimental settings, low frequency measurements are unavailable due to limitations of the experimental setup or the sensors used for measurement. Thus, obtaining a good initial guess for the optimization problem plays a vital role in this environment. We present a neural network warm-start approach for solving the inverse scattering problem, where an initial guess for the optimization problem is obtained using a trained neural network. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method with several numerical examples. For high frequency problems, this approach outperforms traditional iterative methods such as Gauss-Newton initialized without any prior (i.e., initialized using a unit circle), or initialized using the solution of a direct method such as the linear sampling method. The algorithm remains robust to noise in the scattered field measurements and also converges to the true solution for limited aperture data. However, the number of training samples required to train the neural network scales exponentially in frequency and the complexity of the obstacles considered. We conclude with a discussion of this phenomenon and potential directions for future research.

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Yue Zhao, Jiequn Han

This work is concerned with solving neural network-based feedback controllers efficiently for optimal control problems. We first conduct a comparative study of two mainstream approaches: offline supervised learning and online direct policy optimization. Albeit the training part of the supervised learning approach is relatively easy, the success of the method heavily depends on the optimal control dataset generated by open-loop optimal control solvers. In contrast, direct optimization turns the optimal control problem into an optimization problem directly without any requirement of pre-computing, but the dynamics-related objective can be hard to optimize when the problem is complicated. Our results highlight the priority of offline supervised learning in terms of both optimality and training time. To overcome the main challenges, dataset, and optimization, in the two approaches respectively, we complement them and propose the Pre-train and Fine-tune strategy as a unified training paradigm for optimal feedback control, which further improves the performance and robustness significantly. Our code is available at https://github.com/yzhao98/DeepOptimalControl.

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Yao Xuan, Robert Balkin, Jiequn Han, Ruimeng Hu, Hector D. Ceniceros

Game theory has been an effective tool in the control of disease spread and in suggesting optimal policies at both individual and area levels. In this AMS Notices article, we focus on the decision-making development for the intervention of COVID-19, aiming to provide mathematical models and efficient machine learning methods, and justifications for related policies that have been implemented in the past and explain how the authorities' decisions affect their neighboring regions from a game theory viewpoint.

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Yaofeng Desmond Zhong, Jiequn Han, Georgia Olympia Brikis

In recent years, an increasing amount of work has focused on differentiable physics simulation and has produced a set of open source projects such as Tiny Differentiable Simulator, Nimble Physics, diffTaichi, Brax, Warp, Dojo and DiffCoSim. By making physics simulations end-to-end differentiable, we can perform gradient-based optimization and learning tasks. A majority of differentiable simulators consider collisions and contacts between objects, but they use different contact models for differentiability. In this paper, we overview four kinds of differentiable contact formulations - linear complementarity problems (LCP), convex optimization models, compliant models and position-based dynamics (PBD). We analyze and compare the gradients calculated by these models and show that the gradients are not always correct. We also demonstrate their ability to learn an optimal control strategy by comparing the learned strategies with the optimal strategy in an analytical form. The codebase to reproduce the experiment results is available at https://github.com/DesmondZhong/diff_sim_grads.

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Jiequn Han, Ruimeng Hu, Jihao Long

One of the core problems in mean-field control and mean-field games is to solve the corresponding McKean-Vlasov forward-backward stochastic differential equations (MV-FBSDEs). Most existing methods are tailored to special cases in which the mean-field interaction only depends on expectation or other moments and thus inadequate to solve problems when the mean-field interaction has full distribution dependence. In this paper, we propose a novel deep learning method for computing MV-FBSDEs with a general form of mean-field interactions. Specifically, built on fictitious play, we recast the problem into repeatedly solving standard FBSDEs with explicit coefficient functions. These coefficient functions are used to approximate the MV-FBSDEs' model coefficients with full distribution dependence, and are updated by solving another supervising learning problem using training data simulated from the last iteration's FBSDE solutions. We use deep neural networks to solve standard BSDEs and approximate coefficient functions in order to solve high-dimensional MV-FBSDEs. Under proper assumptions on the learned functions, we prove that the convergence of the proposed method is free of the curse of dimensionality (CoD) by using the generalized maximum mean discrepancy metric previously developed in [Han, Hu and Long, arXiv:2104.12036]. The proved theorem shows the advantage of the method in high dimensions. We present the numerical performance in high-dimensional MV-FBSDE problems, including a mean-field game example of the well-known Cucker-Smale model whose cost depends on the full distribution of the forward process.

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Jiequn Han, Yucheng Yang, Weinan E

We propose an efficient, reliable, and interpretable global solution method, $\textit{Deep learning-based algorithm for Heterogeneous Agent Models, DeepHAM}$, for solving high dimensional heterogeneous agent models with aggregate shocks. The state distribution is approximately represented by a set of optimal generalized moments. Deep neural networks are used to approximate the value and policy functions, and the objective is optimized over directly simulated paths. Besides being an accurate global solver, this method has three additional features. First, it is computationally efficient for solving complex heterogeneous agent models, and it does not suffer from the curse of dimensionality. Second, it provides a general and interpretable representation of the distribution over individual states; and this is important for addressing the classical question of whether and how heterogeneity matters in macroeconomics. Third, it solves the constrained efficiency problem as easily as the competitive equilibrium, and this opens up new possibilities for studying optimal monetary and fiscal policies in heterogeneous agent models with aggregate shocks.

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Muhammad I. Zafar, Jiequn Han, Xu-Hui Zhou, Heng Xiao

Partial differential equations (PDEs) play a dominant role in the mathematical modeling of many complex dynamical processes. Solving these PDEs often requires prohibitively high computational costs, especially when multiple evaluations must be made for different parameters or conditions. After training, neural operators can provide PDEs solutions significantly faster than traditional PDE solvers. In this work, invariance properties and computational complexity of two neural operators are examined for transport PDE of a scalar quantity. Neural operator based on graph kernel network (GKN) operates on graph-structured data to incorporate nonlocal dependencies. Here we propose a modified formulation of GKN to achieve frame invariance. Vector cloud neural network (VCNN) is an alternate neural operator with embedded frame invariance which operates on point cloud data. GKN-based neural operator demonstrates slightly better predictive performance compared to VCNN. However, GKN requires an excessively high computational cost that increases quadratically with the increasing number of discretized objects as compared to a linear increase for VCNN.

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Jihao Long, Jiequn Han

Most existing theoretical analysis of reinforcement learning (RL) is limited to the tabular setting or linear models due to the difficulty in dealing with function approximation in high dimensional space with an uncertain environment. This work offers a fresh perspective into this challenge by analyzing RL in a general reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS). We consider a family of Markov decision processes $\mathcal{M}$ of which the reward functions lie in the unit ball of an RKHS and transition probabilities lie in a given arbitrary set. We define a quantity called perturbational complexity by distribution mismatch $\Delta_{\mathcal{M}}(\epsilon)$ to characterize the complexity of the admissible state-action distribution space in response to a perturbation in the RKHS with scale $\epsilon$. We show that $\Delta_{\mathcal{M}}(\epsilon)$ gives both the lower bound of the error of all possible algorithms and the upper bound of two specific algorithms (fitted reward and fitted Q-iteration) for the RL problem. Hence, the decay of $\Delta_\mathcal{M}(\epsilon)$ with respect to $\epsilon$ measures the difficulty of the RL problem on $\mathcal{M}$. We further provide some concrete examples and discuss whether $\Delta_{\mathcal{M}}(\epsilon)$ decays fast or not in these examples. As a byproduct, we show that when the reward functions lie in a high dimensional RKHS, even if the transition probability is known and the action space is finite, it is still possible for RL problems to suffer from the curse of dimensionality.

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