Reinforcement Learning (RL) is arguably the hottest research area in AI today because it appears RL can be adapted to any problem that has a well-defined reward function. That encompasses game play, robotics, self-driving cars, and frankly pretty much else in machine learning.
Within RL, the hottest research area is Deep RL which means using a deep neural net as the ‘agent’ in the training. Deep RL is seen as the form of RL with the most potential to generalize over the largest number of cases and perhaps the closest we’ve yet come to AGI (artificial general intelligence).
Importantly, Deep RL is also the technique used to win at Alpha Go which brought it huge attention.
The problem is, according to Alex Irpan, a researcher on the Google Brain Robotics team that about 70% of the time they just don’t work.
Alex has written a very comprehensive article critiquing the current state of Deep RL, the field with which he engages on a day-to-day basis. He lays out a whole series of problems and we’ve elected to focus on the three that most clearly illustrate the current state of the problem with notes from his work.
Vorhies is not unduly negative and is optimistic in the medium to long term, but he is right in noting that there is a lot of work yet to do in this field.