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According to the definition, the AI agent has to play a game by it's own. A typical domain is the blocksworld problem. The AI determines which action the robot in a game should execute and a possible strategy for determine the action sequence is reinforcement learning. Colloquial spoken, reinforcement learning leads to an AI agent who can play games.

Before a self-learning character can be realized, the simulation has to be programmed first. That is an environment which contains the rules for playing blocksworld or any other game. The environment is the house in which the AI character operates. Can the Q-learning algorithm be utilized to build the simulation itself?

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Can the Q-learning algorithm be utilized to build the simulation itself?

Only in the presence of a meta-environment, or meta-simulation where the goals of creating the original simulation are encoded in the states, available actions and rewards.

A special case of this might be in model-learning planning algorithms where there exists a "real" environment to refer to, and the agent benefits from exploring it and constructing a statistical model that it can then use to create an approximate simulation of the outcomes of sequences of actions. The Dyna-Q algorithm, which is a simple extension of Q-learning, is an example of this kind of model building approach. The simulation is very basic - it simply replays previous relevant experience. But you could consider this as an example of the agent constructing a simulation.

Getting an agent to act like a researcher and actually design and/or code a simulation from scratch would require a different kind of meta-environment. It is theoretically possible, but likely very hard to implement in general way - even figuring out the reward scheme to express the goals of such an agent could be a challenge. I'm not aware of any examples, but entirely possible someone has attempted this kind of meta agent, because it is an interesting idea.

Possibly the simplest example would be a gridworld meta-environment where a "designer" agent could select the layout of objects in the maze, with the goal of making a second "explorer" agent's task progressivley more difficult. The designer would be "creating the simulation" only in a very abstract way though, by setting easy-to-manage parameters of the environment, not writing low level code.

There is not much difference between the approach above and having two opposing agents playing a game. It is different from a turn-based game like chess in that each agent would complete a full episode, and then be rewarded by the outcome at the end of the combined two episodes. There are some similarities to GANs for image generation.

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