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A Distributional Analogue to the Successor Representation

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This paper contributes a new approach for distributional reinforcement learning which elucidates a clean separation of transition structure and reward in the learning process. Analogous to how the successor representation (SR) describes the expected consequences of behaving according to a given policy, our distributional successor measure (SM) describes the distributional consequences of this behaviour. We formulate the distributional SM as a distribution over distributions and provide theory connecting it with distributional and model-based reinforcement learning. Moreover, we propose an algorithm that learns the distributional SM from data by minimizing a two-level maximum mean discrepancy. Key to our method are a number of algorithmic techniques that are independently valuable for learning generative models of state. As an illustration of the usefulness of the distributional SM, we show that it enables zero-shot risk-sensitive policy evaluation in a way that was not previously possible.


Harley Wiltzer*, Jesse Farebrother, Arthur Gretton, Yunhao Tang, Andre Barreto, Will Dabney, Marc Bellemare*, Mark Rowland