Using deep reinforcement learning in predictor


Check high level predictor docs for predictor basics.

Previous sections discuss about Markov decision process (MDP) and reinforcement learning based dependency resolution that uses gradient-free methods. Naturally, gradient based methods will be discussed next.


Gradient based methods are not used during the dependency resolution. This part of the documentation serves as a note to future ourselves.

The upcoming video demonstrates a spike that was made for a gradient based dependency resolution.

In a nutshell, training a neural network during the resolution process seems to be tricky especially considering how the state space behaves. As a set of actions that are possible from a state are not constant and vary from state to state, it is required to create a set of trajectories from the dependency graph that basically sample how the resolution can look like. Then, it’s possible to use these trajectories to obtain a set of possible actions - packages and package versions that can be resolved during the resolution process. Trajectories are stored in a replay buffer as they keep information about actions taken and reward signals obtained. The replay buffer is used to train a neural network. Note the replay buffer needs to be shuffled not to provide samples that depend on each other as an input to the neural network training.

The video proposes a neural network for regression. This architecture was made during the experiment to reduce number of trainables by encoding the state and actions on the input. It’s also possible to use classification as well though.

Note the neural network needs to be created and trained during the resolution process (considering the current case) and the input vector size as well as its overall size is not known (opens “neural network meta-programming question here”). Thus the neural network cannot be fine-tuned and subsequently pushed to production.

The video above also discusses a use case where the neural network could be more suitable than TD-learning or MCTS methods. If the knowledge base consists of a lot of causal data (e.g. a reward signal obtained in the resolution process depends on the presence of package X and Y while resolving package Z) the neural network can learn this patterns and guide the resolution process to better solutions. Otherwise, gradient-free methods sound like a better solution (consider time and number of stacks that can be scored if gradient-free methods are used in comparision to resource hungry and time consuming neural network training).

If such causal data would be available in the future, the neural network does not need to be trained during the resolution process as discussed. As such causal data are known beforehand, the neural network (or other trainable entity) can be trained prior to the resolution process and can be used on dependency sub-graphs where it would guide the resolution process. In other words, the neural network would be trained on the causal data and would be used during the resolution process as part of another predictor if the dependency sub-graph for which it was trained is spotted during the resolution process. In other cases, gradient-free methods can be used.