Learning Altruistic Behaviours in Reinforcement Learning without External Rewards

Tim Franzmeyer, Mateusz Malinowski, João F. Henriques

Can artificial agents learn to assist others in achieving their goals without knowing what those goals are? Generic reinforcement learning agents could be trained to behave altruistically towards others by rewarding them for altruistic behaviour, i.e., rewarding them for benefiting other agents in a given situation. Such an approach assumes that other agents' goals are known so that the altruistic agent can cooperate in achieving those goals. However, explicit knowledge of other agents' goals is often difficult to acquire. Even assuming such knowledge to be given, training of altruistic agents would require manually-tuned external rewards for each new environment. Thus, it is beneficial to develop agents that do not depend on external supervision and can learn altruistic behaviour in a task-agnostic manner. Assuming that other agents rationally pursue their goals, we hypothesize that giving them more choices will allow them to pursue those goals better. Some concrete examples include opening a door for others or safeguarding them to pursue their objectives without interference. We formalize this concept and propose an altruistic agent that learns to increase the choices another agent has by maximizing the number of states that the other agent can reach in its future. We evaluate our approach on three different multi-agent environments where another agent's success depends on the altruistic agent's behaviour. Finally, we show that our unsupervised agents can perform comparably to agents explicitly trained to work cooperatively. In some cases, our agents can even outperform the supervised ones.

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