Bayesian Inference with Anchored Ensembles of Neural Networks, and Application to Exploration in Reinforcement Learning

Published in ICML Workshop, 2018

The use of ensembles of neural networks (NNs) for the quantification of predictive uncertainty is widespread. However, the current justification is intuitive rather than analytical. This work proposes one minor modification to the normal ensembling methodology, which we prove allows the ensemble to perform Bayesian inference, hence converging to the corresponding Gaussian Process as both the total number of NNs, and the size of each, tend to infinity. This working paper provides early-stage results in a reinforcement learning setting, analysing the practicality of the technique for an ensemble of small, finite number. Using the uncertainty estimates produced by anchored ensembles to govern the exploration-exploitation process results in steadier, more stable learning.

Authors: Tim Pearce, Nicolas Anastassacos, Mohamed Zaki, Andy Neely

Link to arxiv