Divide-and-Conquer Monte Carlo Tree Search For Goal-Directed Planning

Standard planners for sequential decision making (including Monte Carlo planning, tree search, dynamic programming, etc.) are constrained by an implicit sequential planning assumption: The order in which a plan is constructed is the same in which it is executed. We consider alternatives to this assumption for the class of goal-directed Reinforcement Learning (RL) problems. Instead of an environment transition model, we assume an imperfect, goal-directed policy. This low-level policy can be improved by a plan, consisting of an appropriate sequence of sub-goals that guide it from the start to the goal state. We propose a planning algorithm, Divide-and-Conquer Monte Carlo Tree Search (DC-MCTS), for approximating the optimal plan by means of proposing intermediate sub-goals which hierarchically partition the initial tasks into simpler ones that are then solved independently and recursively. The algorithm critically makes use of a learned sub-goal proposal for finding appropriate partitions trees of new tasks based on prior experience. Different strategies for learning sub-goal proposals give rise to different planning strategies that strictly generalize sequential planning. We show that this algorithmic flexibility over planning order leads to improved results in navigation tasks in grid-worlds as well as in challenging continuous control environments.

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