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Abstract:This study tackles the challenges of adversarial corruption in model-based reinforcement learning (RL), where the transition dynamics can be corrupted by an adversary. Existing studies on corruption-robust RL mostly focus on the setting of model-free RL, where robust least-square regression is often employed for value function estimation. However, these techniques cannot be directly applied to model-based RL. In this paper, we focus on model-based RL and take the maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) approach to learn transition model. Our work encompasses both online and offline settings. In the online setting, we introduce an algorithm called corruption-robust optimistic MLE (CR-OMLE), which leverages total-variation (TV)-based information ratios as uncertainty weights for MLE. We prove that CR-OMLE achieves a regret of $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{T} + C)$, where $C$ denotes the cumulative corruption level after $T$ episodes. We also prove a lower bound to show that the additive dependence on $C$ is optimal. We extend our weighting technique to the offline setting, and propose an algorithm named corruption-robust pessimistic MLE (CR-PMLE). Under a uniform coverage condition, CR-PMLE exhibits suboptimality worsened by $\mathcal{O}(C/n)$, nearly matching the lower bound. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work on corruption-robust model-based RL algorithms with provable guarantees.

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Abstract:Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF) learns from the preference signal provided by a probabilistic preference model, which takes a prompt and two responses as input, and produces a score indicating the preference of one response against another. So far, the most popular RLHF paradigm is reward-based, which starts with an initial step of reward modeling, and the constructed reward is then used to provide a reward signal for the subsequent reward optimization stage. However, the existence of a reward function is a strong assumption and the reward-based RLHF is limited in expressivity and cannot capture the real-world complicated human preference. In this work, we provide theoretical insights for a recently proposed learning paradigm, Nash learning from human feedback (NLHF), which considered a general preference model and formulated the alignment process as a game between two competitive LLMs. The learning objective is to find a policy that consistently generates responses preferred over any competing policy while staying close to the initial model. The objective is defined as the Nash equilibrium (NE) of the KL-regularized preference model. We aim to make the first attempt to study the theoretical learnability of the KL-regularized NLHF by considering both offline and online settings. For the offline learning from a pre-collected dataset, we propose algorithms that are efficient under suitable coverage conditions of the dataset. For batch online learning from iterative interactions with a preference oracle, our proposed algorithm enjoys a finite sample guarantee under the structural condition of the underlying preference model. Our results connect the new NLHF paradigm with traditional RL theory, and validate the potential of reward-model-free learning under general preference.

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Abstract:This paper studies the theoretical framework of the alignment process of generative models with Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF). We consider a standard mathematical formulation, the reverse-KL regularized contextual bandit for RLHF. Despite its widespread practical application, a rigorous theoretical analysis of this formulation remains open. We investigate its theoretical properties both in offline and online settings and propose efficient algorithms with finite-sample theoretical guarantees. Our work bridges the gap between theory and practice by linking our theoretical insights with existing practical alignment algorithms such as Direct Preference Optimization (DPO) and Rejection Sampling Optimization (RSO). Furthermore, these findings and connections also offer both theoretical and practical communities new tools and insights for future algorithmic design of alignment algorithms.

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Abstract:We study high-dimensional multi-armed contextual bandits with batched feedback where the $T$ steps of online interactions are divided into $L$ batches. In specific, each batch collects data according to a policy that depends on previous batches and the rewards are revealed only at the end of the batch. Such a feedback structure is popular in applications such as personalized medicine and online advertisement, where the online data often do not arrive in a fully serial manner. We consider high-dimensional and linear settings where the reward function of the bandit model admits either a sparse or low-rank structure and ask how small a number of batches are needed for a comparable performance with fully dynamic data in which $L = T$. For these settings, we design a provably sample-efficient algorithm which achieves a $ \mathcal{\tilde O}(s_0^2 \log^2 T)$ regret in the sparse case and $ \mathcal{\tilde O} ( r ^2 \log^2 T)$ regret in the low-rank case, using only $L = \mathcal{O}( \log T)$ batches. Here $s_0$ and $r$ are the sparsity and rank of the reward parameter in sparse and low-rank cases, respectively, and $ \mathcal{\tilde O}(\cdot)$ omits logarithmic factors involving the feature dimensions. In other words, our algorithm achieves regret bounds comparable to those in fully sequential setting with only $\mathcal{O}( \log T)$ batches. Our algorithm features a novel batch allocation method that adjusts the batch sizes according to the estimation accuracy within each batch and cumulative regret. Furthermore, we also conduct experiments with synthetic and real-world data to validate our theory.

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Abstract:We investigate the problem of corruption robustness in offline reinforcement learning (RL) with general function approximation, where an adversary can corrupt each sample in the offline dataset, and the corruption level $\zeta\geq0$ quantifies the cumulative corruption amount over $n$ episodes and $H$ steps. Our goal is to find a policy that is robust to such corruption and minimizes the suboptimality gap with respect to the optimal policy for the uncorrupted Markov decision processes (MDPs). Drawing inspiration from the uncertainty-weighting technique from the robust online RL setting \citep{he2022nearly,ye2022corruptionrobust}, we design a new uncertainty weight iteration procedure to efficiently compute on batched samples and propose a corruption-robust algorithm for offline RL. Notably, under the assumption of single policy coverage and the knowledge of $\zeta$, our proposed algorithm achieves a suboptimality bound that is worsened by an additive factor of $\mathcal O(\zeta \cdot (\text{CC}(\lambda,\hat{\mathcal F},\mathcal Z_n^H))^{1/2} (C(\hat{\mathcal F},\mu))^{-1/2} n^{-1})$ due to the corruption. Here $\text{CC}(\lambda,\hat{\mathcal F},\mathcal Z_n^H)$ is the coverage coefficient that depends on the regularization parameter $\lambda$, the confidence set $\hat{\mathcal F}$, and the dataset $\mathcal Z_n^H$, and $C(\hat{\mathcal F},\mu)$ is a coefficient that depends on $\hat{\mathcal F}$ and the underlying data distribution $\mu$. When specialized to linear MDPs, the corruption-dependent error term reduces to $\mathcal O(\zeta d n^{-1})$ with $d$ being the dimension of the feature map, which matches the existing lower bound for corrupted linear MDPs. This suggests that our analysis is tight in terms of the corruption-dependent term.

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Abstract:Modern deep learning heavily relies on large labeled datasets, which often comse with high costs in terms of both manual labeling and computational resources. To mitigate these challenges, researchers have explored the use of informative subset selection techniques, including coreset selection and active learning. Specifically, coreset selection involves sampling data with both input ($\bx$) and output ($\by$), active learning focuses solely on the input data ($\bx$). In this study, we present a theoretically optimal solution for addressing both coreset selection and active learning within the context of linear softmax regression. Our proposed method, COPS (unCertainty based OPtimal Sub-sampling), is designed to minimize the expected loss of a model trained on subsampled data. Unlike existing approaches that rely on explicit calculations of the inverse covariance matrix, which are not easily applicable to deep learning scenarios, COPS leverages the model's logits to estimate the sampling ratio. This sampling ratio is closely associated with model uncertainty and can be effectively applied to deep learning tasks. Furthermore, we address the challenge of model sensitivity to misspecification by incorporating a down-weighting approach for low-density samples, drawing inspiration from previous works. To assess the effectiveness of our proposed method, we conducted extensive empirical experiments using deep neural networks on benchmark datasets. The results consistently showcase the superior performance of COPS compared to baseline methods, reaffirming its efficacy.

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Abstract:Despite the significant interest and progress in reinforcement learning (RL) problems with adversarial corruption, current works are either confined to the linear setting or lead to an undesired $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{T}\zeta)$ regret bound, where $T$ is the number of rounds and $\zeta$ is the total amount of corruption. In this paper, we consider the contextual bandit with general function approximation and propose a computationally efficient algorithm to achieve a regret of $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{T}+\zeta)$. The proposed algorithm relies on the recently developed uncertainty-weighted least-squares regression from linear contextual bandit \citep{he2022nearly} and a new weighted estimator of uncertainty for the general function class. In contrast to the existing analysis that heavily relies on the linear structure, we develop a novel technique to control the sum of weighted uncertainty, thus establishing the final regret bounds. We then generalize our algorithm to the episodic MDP setting and first achieve an additive dependence on the corruption level $\zeta$ in the scenario of general function approximation. Notably, our algorithms achieve regret bounds either nearly match the performance lower bound or improve the existing methods for all the corruption levels and in both known and unknown $\zeta$ cases.

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