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Introduction to reinforcement learning

Robotic Hand with Cylinder and Shape Sorting Toy. Machine Learning and Recognition Concept.
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What constitutes a learning environment?

Your learning has come about through your interactions with the course material, your peers, online resources such as YouTube and Stackoverflow, books, and scientific publications. These constitute different parts of an environment you have interacted with in order to learn.

The concept of learning through intelligent interaction with our environment is fundamental. Think of a time in your life when you learned a new skill. Perhaps it was when you learnt to ride a bicycle, juggle, surf, or whatever is most vivid. In this situation, most of your learning was driven by trial and error (through your motor system) and experiencing what happened next (through your senses).

This connection between sensing the world, acting according to our motor plan, and updating that plan based on what happens, is a powerful basis for learning. This can yield rich information to our brains regarding cause and effect, intention, action and consequence. Not surprisingly, this idea of learning through interaction is absolutely fundamental to models of learning and it naturally suggests that we should be applying such ideas if we are interested in developing learning machines.

Some excellent progress has been made in understanding and developing machines capable of learning in ways similar to how humans do when learning to ride a bicycle, juggle etc. In this course, we will spend some time introducing you to reinforcement learning. We can only scrape the surface here, but hopefully, it will encourage further learning on your part.

What do you think?

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Take a few minutes to watch this video and think about your answers to the following questions:

  • The Google AI learned to walk without any guidance, do you think machines can really learn as humans do?
  • Is there a particular skill you had to learn?
  • What challenges did you face when learning that skill?

Share and discuss your responses with other learners in the comments section below.

© Dublin City University
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Reinforcement Learning

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