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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Intro to Model-Free and Model-Based Reinforcement Learning

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Daeyeol Lee, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

“Computationally, model-based reinforcement learning is a lot more elaborate [than model-free RL].” -Daeyeol Lee.

Credit: Daeyeol Lee

Nearly every book on reinforcement learning (RL) contains a chapter that explains the differences between model-free and model-based reinforcement learning. But seldom are the biological and evolutionary precedents discussed in books about RL algorithms for computers.

However, Daeyeol Lee's The Birth of Intelligence, a book that explores the evolution of intelligence, offers an interesting explanation of model-free and model-based RL. In an interview, Lee, a neuroscientist, discusses different modes of RL in humans and animals, AI and natural intelligence, and future directions of research.

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