# Soft Actor-Critic Demystified

We want a high entropy in our policy to explicitly encourage exploration, to encourage the policy to assign equal probabilities to actions that have same or nearly equal Q-values, and also to ensure that it does not collapse into repeatedly selecting a particular action that could exploit some inconsistency in the approximated Q function.

Therefore, SAC overcomes the brittleness problem by encouraging the policy network to explore and not assign a very high probability to any one part of the range of actions.

Objective Function consisting of both a reward term and an entropy term H weighted by αNow that we know what we are optimizing for, let us understand how we go about doing the optimization.

SAC makes use of three networks: a state value function V parameterized by ψ, a soft Q-function Q parameterized by θ, and a policy function π parameterized by ϕ.

While there is no need in principle to have separate approximators for the V and Q functions which are related through the policy, the authors say that in practice having separate function approximators help in convergence.

So we need to train the three function approximators as follows:We train the Value network by minimizing the following error:Don’t get scared by this long error formula.

All it’s saying is that across all the states that we sample from our experience replay buffer, we need to decrease the squared difference between the prediction of our value network and the expected prediction of the Q function plus the entropy of the policy function π (measured here by the negative log of the policy function).

We’ll use the below approximation of the derivative of the above objective to update the parameters of the V function:2.

We train the Q network by minimizing the following error:whereMinimizing this objective function amounts to the following: For all (state, action) pairs in the experience replay buffer, we want to minimize the squared difference between the prediction of our Q function and the immediate (one time-step) reward plus the discounted expected Value of the next state.

Note that the Value comes from a Value function parameterized by ψ with a bar on top of it.

This is an additional Value function called the target value function.

We’ll get into why we need this but for now, don’t worry about it and just think of it as a Value function that we’re training.

We’ll use the below approximation of the derivative of the above objective is to update the parameters of the Q function:3.

We train the Policy network π by minimizing the following error:This objective function looks complex but it’s actually saying something very simple.

The DKL function that you see inside the expectation is called the Kullback-Leibler Divergence.

I highly recommend that you read up on the KL divergence since it shows up a lot in deep learning research and applications these days.

For the purposes of this tutorial, you can interpret it as how different the two distributions are.

So, this objective function is basically trying to make the distribution of our Policy function look more like the distribution of the exponentiation of our Q Function normalized by another function Z.

In order to minimize this objective, the authors use something called the reparameterization trick.

This trick is used to make sure that sampling from the policy is a differentiable process so that there are no problems in backpropagating the errors.

The policy is now parameterized as follows:The epsilon term is a noise vector sampled from a Gaussian distribution.

We will explain it more in the implementation section.

Now, we can express the objective function as follows:The normalizing function Z is dropped since it does not depend on the parameter ϕ.

An unbiased estimator for the gradient of the above objective is given as follows:That’s it for the math!ImplementationNow that we understand the theory behind the algorithm, let’s implement a version of it in Pytorch.

My implementation is modeled on higgsfield’s but with a critical change: I’ve used the reparameterization trick which makes training converge better due to lower variance.

First off, let’s look at the main body of the algorithm so that we understand what is happening at a high level so that we can then dive into the details of individual components.

env = NormalizedActions(gym.

make("Pendulum-v0"))action_dim = env.

action_space.

shapestate_dim = env.

observation_space.

shapehidden_dim = 256value_net = ValueNetwork(state_dim, hidden_dim).

to(device)target_value_net = ValueNetwork(state_dim, hidden_dim).

to(device)soft_q_net1 = SoftQNetwork(state_dim, action_dim, hidden_dim).

to(device)soft_q_net2 = SoftQNetwork(state_dim, action_dim, hidden_dim).

to(device)policy_net = PolicyNetwork(state_dim, action_dim, hidden_dim).

to(device)for target_param, param in zip(target_value_net.

parameters(), value_net.

parameters()): target_param.

data.

copy_(param.

data) value_criterion = nn.

MSELoss()soft_q_criterion1 = nn.

MSELoss()soft_q_criterion2 = nn.

MSELoss()lr = 3e-4value_optimizer = optim.

parameters(), lr=lr)soft_q_optimizer = optim.

parameters(), lr=lr)policy_optimizer = optim.

parameters(), lr=lr)replay_buffer_size = 1000000replay_buffer = ReplayBuffer(replay_buffer_size)First off, we initialize an OpenAI Gym environment in which our agent will play the Reinforcement Learning game.

We store information about the dimension of the observations of the environment, the dimension of the action space, and then, set the hyperparameter of how many hidden layers we want in our networks.

Then we initialize the three networks that we want to train along with a target V network.

You will note that we have two Q networks.

We maintain two Q networks to solve the problem of overestimation of Q-values.

To combat this we maintain two Q networks and use the minimum of the two to do our policy and V function updates.

Now, it’s time to explain the whole target V network business.

The use of target networks is motivated by a problem in training V network.

If you go back to the objective functions in the Theory section, you will find that the target for the Q network training depends on the V Network and the target for the V Network depends on the Q network (this makes sense because we are trying to enforce Bellman Consistency between the two functions).

Because of this, the V network has a target that’s indirectly dependent on itself which means that the V network’s target depends on the same parameters we are trying to train.

This makes training very unstable.

The solution is to use a set of parameters which comes close to the parameters of the main V network, but with a time delay.

Thus we create a second network which lags the main network called the target network.

The first way is to have the target network copied over from the main network regularly after a set number of steps.

The other way is to update the target network by Polyak averaging (a kind of moving averaging) itself and the main network.

In this implementation, we use Polyak averaging.

We initialize the main and target V networks to have the same parameters.

while frame_idx < max_frames: state = env.

reset() episode_reward = 0 for step in range(max_steps): if frame_idx >1000: action = policy_net.

get_action(state).

detach() next_state, reward, done, _ = env.

step(action.

numpy()) else: action = env.

action_space.

sample() next_state, reward, done, _ = env.

step(action) replay_buffer.

push(state, action, reward, next_state, done) state = next_state episode_reward += reward frame_idx += 1 if len(replay_buffer) > batch_size: update(batch_size) if frame_idx % 1000 == 0: plot(frame_idx, rewards) if done: break rewards.

append(episode_reward)We have nested loops here.

The outer loop initializes the environment for the beginning of the episode.

The inner loop is for the individual steps within an episode.

In the inner loop, we sample an action from the Policy network — or randomly from the action space for the first few time steps— and record the state, action, reward, next state, and done — a variable indicating if we entered the terminal state of the episode — to the replay buffer.

We do this till we have a minimum number of observations in the buffer.

Then, we do network updates in each run of the inner loop after recording to the buffer.

The following is the code for the network update:def update(batch_size,gamma=0.

99,soft_tau=1e-2,): state, action, reward, next_state, done = replay_buffer.

sample(batch_size) state = torch.

FloatTensor(state).

to(device) next_state = torch.

FloatTensor(next_state).

to(device) action = torch.

FloatTensor(action).

to(device) reward = torch.

FloatTensor(reward).

unsqueeze(1).

to(device) done = torch.

FloatTensor(np.

float32(done)).

unsqueeze(1).

to(device) predicted_q_value1 = soft_q_net1(state, action) predicted_q_value2 = soft_q_net2(state, action) predicted_value = value_net(state) new_action, log_prob, epsilon, mean, log_std = policy_net.

evaluate(state)# Training Q Function target_value = target_value_net(next_state) target_q_value = reward + (1 – done) * gamma * target_value q_value_loss1 = soft_q_criterion1(predicted_q_value1, target_q_value.

detach()) q_value_loss2 = soft_q_criterion2(predicted_q_value2, target_q_value.

detach()) print("Q Loss") print(q_value_loss1) soft_q_optimizer1.

backward() soft_q_optimizer1.

step() soft_q_optimizer2.

backward() soft_q_optimizer2.

step() # Training Value Function predicted_new_q_value = torch.

min(soft_q_net1(state, new_action),soft_q_net2(state, new_action)) target_value_func = predicted_new_q_value – log_prob value_loss = value_criterion(predicted_value, target_value_func.

detach()) print("V Loss") print(value_loss) value_optimizer.

backward() value_optimizer.

step()# Training Policy Function policy_loss = (log_prob – predicted_new_q_value).

mean() policy_optimizer.

backward() policy_optimizer.

step() for target_param, param in zip(target_value_net.

parameters(), value_net.

parameters()): target_param.

data.

copy_( target_param.

data * (1.

0 – soft_tau) + param.

data * soft_tau )First, we update the two Q function parameters by reducing the MSE between the predicted Q value for a state-action pair and its corresponding (reward + (1 — done) * gamma * target_value).

For the V network update, we take the minimum of the two Q values for a state-action pair and subtract from it the Policy’s log probability of selecting that action in that state.

Then we decrease the MSE between the above quantity and the predicted V value of that state.

Then, we update the Policy parameters by reducing the Policy’s log probability of choosing an action in a state log(π(S)) minus the predicted Q-value of that state-action pair.

Note here that in this loss, the predicted q value is composed of the policy : Q(S, π(S)).

This is important because it makes the term dependent on the Policy parameters ϕ.

Lastly, we update the Target Value Network by Polyak averaging it with the Main Value Network.

Next, let’s take a quick look at the network structures:class ValueNetwork(nn.

Module): def __init__(self, state_dim, hidden_dim, init_w=3e-3): super(ValueNetwork, self).

__init__() self.

linear1 = nn.

Linear(state_dim, hidden_dim) self.

linear2 = nn.

Linear(hidden_dim, hidden_dim) self.

linear3 = nn.

Linear(hidden_dim, 1) self.

linear3.

weight.

data.

uniform_(-init_w, init_w) self.

linear3.

bias.

data.

uniform_(-init_w, init_w) def forward(self, state): x = F.

relu(self.

linear1(state)) x = F.

relu(self.

linear2(x)) x = self.

linear3(x) return x class SoftQNetwork(nn.

Module): def __init__(self, num_inputs, num_actions, hidden_size, init_w=3e-3): super(SoftQNetwork, self).

__init__() self.

linear1 = nn.

Linear(num_inputs + num_actions, hidden_size) self.

linear2 = nn.

Linear(hidden_size, hidden_size) self.

linear3 = nn.

Linear(hidden_size, 1) self.

linear3.

weight.

data.

uniform_(-init_w, init_w) self.

linear3.

bias.

data.

uniform_(-init_w, init_w) def forward(self, state, action): x = torch.

cat([state, action], 1) x = F.

relu(self.

linear1(x)) x = F.

relu(self.

linear2(x)) x = self.

linear3(x) return x class PolicyNetwork(nn.

Module): def __init__(self, num_inputs, num_actions, hidden_size, init_w=3e-3, log_std_min=-20, log_std_max=2): super(PolicyNetwork, self).

__init__() self.

log_std_min = log_std_min self.

log_std_max = log_std_max self.

linear1 = nn.

Linear(num_inputs, hidden_size) self.

linear2 = nn.

Linear(hidden_size, hidden_size) self.

mean_linear = nn.

Linear(hidden_size, num_actions) self.

mean_linear.

weight.

data.

uniform_(-init_w, init_w) self.

mean_linear.

bias.

data.

uniform_(-init_w, init_w) self.

log_std_linear = nn.

Linear(hidden_size, num_actions) self.

log_std_linear.

weight.

data.

uniform_(-init_w, init_w) self.

log_std_linear.

bias.

data.

uniform_(-init_w, init_w) def forward(self, state): x = F.

relu(self.

linear1(state)) x = F.

relu(self.

linear2(x)) mean = self.

mean_linear(x) log_std = self.

log_std_linear(x) log_std = torch.

clamp(log_std, self.

log_std_min, self.

log_std_max) return mean, log_std def evaluate(self, state, epsilon=1e-6): mean, log_std = self.

forward(state) std = log_std.

exp() normal = Normal(0, 1) z = normal.

sample() action = torch.

tanh(mean+ std*z.

to(device)) log_prob = Normal(mean, std).

log_prob(mean+ std*z.

to(device)) – torch.

log(1 – action.

pow(2) + epsilon) return action, log_prob, z, mean, log_std def get_action(self, state): state = torch.

FloatTensor(state).

unsqueeze(0).

to(device) mean, log_std = self.

forward(state) std = log_std.

exp() normal = Normal(0, 1) z = normal.

sample().

to(device) action = torch.

tanh(mean + std*z) action = action.

cpu() return actionThe Q and V networks are pretty standard so let’s take a closer look at the Policy network.

The policy has two outputs : the mean and the log standard deviation — we use log standard deviations since their exponential always gives a positive number.

The log standard deviation is clamped to be in a sane region.

Then to get the action, we use the reparameterization trick.

from Open AI Spinning UpFor this, we sample some noise from a Standard Normal distribution and multiply it with our standard deviation, and then add the result to the mean.

Then this number is activated with a tanh function to give us our action.

Finally, the log probability is calculated using an approximator of the log likelihood of tanh(mean + std* z).

That’s all for the important implementation details!.The full code can be found here.

Make sure you run it and play around with the different hyperparameters to understand how they affect the training.

I hope this has been helpful.

Please send me any comments, corrections or links to any cool projects that you make using SAC!.