Alexander Tschantz, Manuel Baltieri, Anil. K. Seth, Christopher L. Buckley
In reinforcement learning (RL), agents often operate in partially observed and uncertain environments. Model-based RL suggests that this is best achieved by learning and exploiting a probabilistic model of the world. ‘Active inference’ is an emerging normative framework in cognitive and computational neuroscience that offers a unifying account of how biological agents achieve this. On this framework, inference, learning and action emerge from a single imperative to maximize the Bayesian evidence for a niched model of the world. However, implementations of this process have thus far been restricted to low-dimensional and idealized situations. Here, we present a working implementation of active inference that applies to high-dimensional tasks, with proof-of-principle results demonstrating efficient exploration and an order of magnitude increase in sample efficiency over strong model-free baselines. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of applying active inference at scale and highlight the operational homologies between active inference and current model-based approaches to RL.