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Rémi Munos, Michal Valko, Daniele Calandriello, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Mark Rowland, Zhaohan Daniel Guo, Yunhao Tang, Matthieu Geist, Thomas Mesnard, Andrea Michi, Marco Selvi, Sertan Girgin, Nikola Momchev, Olivier Bachem, Daniel J. Mankowitz, Doina Precup, Bilal Piot

Reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) has emerged as the main paradigm for aligning large language models (LLMs) with human preferences. Typically, RLHF involves the initial step of learning a reward model from human feedback, often expressed as preferences between pairs of text generations produced by a pre-trained LLM. Subsequently, the LLM's policy is fine-tuned by optimizing it to maximize the reward model through a reinforcement learning algorithm. However, an inherent limitation of current reward models is their inability to fully represent the richness of human preferences and their dependency on the sampling distribution. In this study, we introduce an alternative pipeline for the fine-tuning of LLMs using pairwise human feedback. Our approach entails the initial learning of a preference model, which is conditioned on two inputs given a prompt, followed by the pursuit of a policy that consistently generates responses preferred over those generated by any competing policy, thus defining the Nash equilibrium of this preference model. We term this approach Nash learning from human feedback (NLHF). In the context of a tabular policy representation, we present a novel algorithmic solution, Nash-MD, founded on the principles of mirror descent. This algorithm produces a sequence of policies, with the last iteration converging to the regularized Nash equilibrium. Additionally, we explore parametric representations of policies and introduce gradient descent algorithms for deep-learning architectures. To demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, we present experimental results involving the fine-tuning of a LLM for a text summarization task. We believe NLHF offers a compelling avenue for preference learning and policy optimization with the potential of advancing the field of aligning LLMs with human preferences.

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Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Mark Rowland, Bilal Piot, Daniel Guo, Daniele Calandriello, Michal Valko, Rémi Munos

The prevalent deployment of learning from human preferences through reinforcement learning (RLHF) relies on two important approximations: the first assumes that pairwise preferences can be substituted with pointwise rewards. The second assumes that a reward model trained on these pointwise rewards can generalize from collected data to out-of-distribution data sampled by the policy. Recently, Direct Preference Optimisation (DPO) has been proposed as an approach that bypasses the second approximation and learn directly a policy from collected data without the reward modelling stage. However, this method still heavily relies on the first approximation. In this paper we try to gain a deeper theoretical understanding of these practical algorithms. In particular we derive a new general objective called $\Psi$PO for learning from human preferences that is expressed in terms of pairwise preferences and therefore bypasses both approximations. This new general objective allows us to perform an in-depth analysis of the behavior of RLHF and DPO (as special cases of $\Psi$PO) and to identify their potential pitfalls. We then consider another special case for $\Psi$PO by setting $\Psi$ simply to Identity, for which we can derive an efficient optimisation procedure, prove performance guarantees and demonstrate its empirical superiority to DPO on some illustrative examples.

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Toshinori Kitamura, Tadashi Kozuno, Yunhao Tang, Nino Vieillard, Michal Valko, Wenhao Yang, Jincheng Mei, Pierre Ménard, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Rémi Munos, Olivier Pietquin, Matthieu Geist, Csaba Szepesvári, Wataru Kumagai, Yutaka Matsuo

Mirror descent value iteration (MDVI), an abstraction of Kullback-Leibler (KL) and entropy-regularized reinforcement learning (RL), has served as the basis for recent high-performing practical RL algorithms. However, despite the use of function approximation in practice, the theoretical understanding of MDVI has been limited to tabular Markov decision processes (MDPs). We study MDVI with linear function approximation through its sample complexity required to identify an $\varepsilon$-optimal policy with probability $1-\delta$ under the settings of an infinite-horizon linear MDP, generative model, and G-optimal design. We demonstrate that least-squares regression weighted by the variance of an estimated optimal value function of the next state is crucial to achieving minimax optimality. Based on this observation, we present Variance-Weighted Least-Squares MDVI (VWLS-MDVI), the first theoretical algorithm that achieves nearly minimax optimal sample complexity for infinite-horizon linear MDPs. Furthermore, we propose a practical VWLS algorithm for value-based deep RL, Deep Variance Weighting (DVW). Our experiments demonstrate that DVW improves the performance of popular value-based deep RL algorithms on a set of MinAtar benchmarks.

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Mark Rowland, Rémi Munos, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Yunhao Tang, Georg Ostrovski, Anna Harutyunyan, Karl Tuyls, Marc G. Bellemare, Will Dabney

We analyse quantile temporal-difference learning (QTD), a distributional reinforcement learning algorithm that has proven to be a key component in several successful large-scale applications of reinforcement learning. Despite these empirical successes, a theoretical understanding of QTD has proven elusive until now. Unlike classical TD learning, which can be analysed with standard stochastic approximation tools, QTD updates do not approximate contraction mappings, are highly non-linear, and may have multiple fixed points. The core result of this paper is a proof of convergence to the fixed points of a related family of dynamic programming procedures with probability 1, putting QTD on firm theoretical footing. The proof establishes connections between QTD and non-linear differential inclusions through stochastic approximation theory and non-smooth analysis.

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Yunhao Tang, Zhaohan Daniel Guo, Pierre Harvey Richemond, Bernardo Ávila Pires, Yash Chandak, Rémi Munos, Mark Rowland, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Charline Le Lan, Clare Lyle, András György, Shantanu Thakoor, Will Dabney, Bilal Piot, Daniele Calandriello, Michal Valko

We study the learning dynamics of self-predictive learning for reinforcement learning, a family of algorithms that learn representations by minimizing the prediction error of their own future latent representations. Despite its recent empirical success, such algorithms have an apparent defect: trivial representations (such as constants) minimize the prediction error, yet it is obviously undesirable to converge to such solutions. Our central insight is that careful designs of the optimization dynamics are critical to learning meaningful representations. We identify that a faster paced optimization of the predictor and semi-gradient updates on the representation, are crucial to preventing the representation collapse. Then in an idealized setup, we show self-predictive learning dynamics carries out spectral decomposition on the state transition matrix, effectively capturing information of the transition dynamics. Building on the theoretical insights, we propose bidirectional self-predictive learning, a novel self-predictive algorithm that learns two representations simultaneously. We examine the robustness of our theoretical insights with a number of small-scale experiments and showcase the promise of the novel representation learning algorithm with large-scale experiments.

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Zhaohan Daniel Guo, Shantanu Thakoor, Miruna Pîslar, Bernardo Avila Pires, Florent Altché, Corentin Tallec, Alaa Saade, Daniele Calandriello, Jean-Bastien Grill, Yunhao Tang, Michal Valko, Rémi Munos, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Bilal Piot

We present BYOL-Explore, a conceptually simple yet general approach for curiosity-driven exploration in visually-complex environments. BYOL-Explore learns a world representation, the world dynamics, and an exploration policy all-together by optimizing a single prediction loss in the latent space with no additional auxiliary objective. We show that BYOL-Explore is effective in DM-HARD-8, a challenging partially-observable continuous-action hard-exploration benchmark with visually-rich 3-D environments. On this benchmark, we solve the majority of the tasks purely through augmenting the extrinsic reward with BYOL-Explore s intrinsic reward, whereas prior work could only get off the ground with human demonstrations. As further evidence of the generality of BYOL-Explore, we show that it achieves superhuman performance on the ten hardest exploration games in Atari while having a much simpler design than other competitive agents.

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Tadashi Kozuno, Wenhao Yang, Nino Vieillard, Toshinori Kitamura, Yunhao Tang, Jincheng Mei, Pierre Ménard, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Michal Valko, Rémi Munos, Olivier Pietquin, Matthieu Geist, Csaba Szepesvári

In this work, we consider and analyze the sample complexity of model-free reinforcement learning with a generative model. Particularly, we analyze mirror descent value iteration (MDVI) by Geist et al. (2019) and Vieillard et al. (2020a), which uses the Kullback-Leibler divergence and entropy regularization in its value and policy updates. Our analysis shows that it is nearly minimax-optimal for finding an $\varepsilon$-optimal policy when $\varepsilon$ is sufficiently small. This is the first theoretical result that demonstrates that a simple model-free algorithm without variance-reduction can be nearly minimax-optimal under the considered setting.

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Ran Liu, Mehdi Azabou, Max Dabagia, Chi-Heng Lin, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Keith B. Hengen, Michal Valko, Eva L. Dyer

Meaningful and simplified representations of neural activity can yield insights into how and what information is being processed within a neural circuit. However, without labels, finding representations that reveal the link between the brain and behavior can be challenging. Here, we introduce a novel unsupervised approach for learning disentangled representations of neural activity called Swap-VAE. Our approach combines a generative modeling framework with an instance-specific alignment loss that tries to maximize the representational similarity between transformed views of the input (brain state). These transformed (or augmented) views are created by dropping out neurons and jittering samples in time, which intuitively should lead the network to a representation that maintains both temporal consistency and invariance to the specific neurons used to represent the neural state. Through evaluations on both synthetic data and neural recordings from hundreds of neurons in different primate brains, we show that it is possible to build representations that disentangle neural datasets along relevant latent dimensions linked to behavior.

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Mehdi Azabou, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Ran Liu, Chi-Heng Lin, Erik C. Johnson, Kiran Bhaskaran-Nair, Max Dabagia, Keith B. Hengen, William Gray-Roncal, Michal Valko, Eva L. Dyer

State-of-the-art methods for self-supervised learning (SSL) build representations by maximizing the similarity between different augmented "views" of a sample. Because these approaches try to match views of the same sample, they can be too myopic and fail to produce meaningful results when augmentations are not sufficiently rich. This motivates the use of the dataset itself to find similar, yet distinct, samples to serve as views for one another. In this paper, we introduce Mine Your Own vieW (MYOW), a new approach for building across-sample prediction into SSL. The idea behind our approach is to actively mine views, finding samples that are close in the representation space of the network, and then predict, from one sample's latent representation, the representation of a nearby sample. In addition to showing the promise of MYOW on standard datasets used in computer vision, we highlight the power of this idea in a novel application in neuroscience where rich augmentations are not already established. When applied to neural datasets, MYOW outperforms other self-supervised approaches in all examples (in some cases by more than 10%), and surpasses the supervised baseline for most datasets. By learning to predict the latent representation of similar samples, we show that it is possible to learn good representations in new domains where augmentations are still limited.

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Shantanu Thakoor, Corentin Tallec, Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar, Rémi Munos, Petar Veličković, Michal Valko

Current state-of-the-art self-supervised learning methods for graph neural networks (GNNs) are based on contrastive learning. As such, they heavily depend on the construction of augmentations and negative examples. For example, on the standard PPI benchmark, increasing the number of negative pairs improves performance, thereby requiring computation and memory cost quadratic in the number of nodes to achieve peak performance. Inspired by BYOL, a recently introduced method for self-supervised learning that does not require negative pairs, we present Bootstrapped Graph Latents, BGRL, a self-supervised graph representation method that gets rid of this potentially quadratic bottleneck. BGRL outperforms or matches the previous unsupervised state-of-the-art results on several established benchmark datasets. Moreover, it enables the effective usage of graph attentional (GAT) encoders, allowing us to further improve the state of the art. In particular on the PPI dataset, using GAT as an encoder we achieve state-of-the-art 70.49% Micro-F1, using the linear evaluation protocol. On all other datasets under consideration, our model is competitive with the equivalent supervised GNN results, often exceeding them.

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