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Authors:Kaiwen Wang, Rahul Kidambi, Ryan Sullivan, Alekh Agarwal, Christoph Dann, Andrea Michi, Marco Gelmi, Yunxuan Li, Raghav Gupta, Avinava Dubey(+10 more)

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Abstract:Reward-based finetuning is crucial for aligning language policies with intended behaviors (e.g., creativity and safety). A key challenge here is to develop steerable language models that trade-off multiple (conflicting) objectives in a flexible and efficient manner. This paper presents Conditioned Language Policy (CLP), a general framework for finetuning language models on multiple objectives. Building on techniques from multi-task training and parameter-efficient finetuning, CLP can learn steerable models that effectively trade-off conflicting objectives at inference time. Notably, this does not require training or maintaining multiple models to achieve different trade-offs between the objectives. Through an extensive set of experiments and ablations, we show that the CLP framework learns steerable models that outperform and Pareto-dominate the current state-of-the-art approaches for multi-objective finetuning.

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Abstract:Abernethy et al. (2011) showed that Blackwell approachability and no-regret learning are equivalent, in the sense that any algorithm that solves a specific Blackwell approachability instance can be converted to a sublinear regret algorithm for a specific no-regret learning instance, and vice versa. In this paper, we study a more fine-grained form of such reductions, and ask when this translation between problems preserves not only a sublinear rate of convergence, but also preserves the optimal rate of convergence. That is, in which cases does it suffice to find the optimal regret bound for a no-regret learning instance in order to find the optimal rate of convergence for a corresponding approachability instance? We show that the reduction of Abernethy et al. (2011) does not preserve rates: their reduction may reduce a $d$-dimensional approachability instance $I_1$ with optimal convergence rate $R_1$ to a no-regret learning instance $I_2$ with optimal regret-per-round of $R_2$, with $R_{2}/R_{1}$ arbitrarily large (in particular, it is possible that $R_1 = 0$ and $R_{2} > 0$). On the other hand, we show that it is possible to tightly reduce any approachability instance to an instance of a generalized form of regret minimization we call improper $\phi$-regret minimization (a variant of the $\phi$-regret minimization of Gordon et al. (2008) where the transformation functions may map actions outside of the action set). Finally, we characterize when linear transformations suffice to reduce improper $\phi$-regret minimization problems to standard classes of regret minimization problems in a rate preserving manner. We prove that some improper $\phi$-regret minimization instances cannot be reduced to either subclass of instance in this way, suggesting that approachability can capture some problems that cannot be phrased in the language of online learning.

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Abstract:We present Self-Play Preference Optimization (SPO), an algorithm for reinforcement learning from human feedback. Our approach is minimalist in that it does not require training a reward model nor unstable adversarial training and is therefore rather simple to implement. Our approach is maximalist in that it provably handles non-Markovian, intransitive, and stochastic preferences while being robust to the compounding errors that plague offline approaches to sequential prediction. To achieve the preceding qualities, we build upon the concept of a Minimax Winner (MW), a notion of preference aggregation from the social choice theory literature that frames learning from preferences as a zero-sum game between two policies. By leveraging the symmetry of this game, we prove that rather than using the traditional technique of dueling two policies to compute the MW, we can simply have a single agent play against itself while maintaining strong convergence guarantees. Practically, this corresponds to sampling multiple trajectories from a policy, asking a rater or preference model to compare them, and then using the proportion of wins as the reward for a particular trajectory. We demonstrate that on a suite of continuous control tasks, we are able to learn significantly more efficiently than reward-model based approaches while maintaining robustness to the intransitive and stochastic preferences that frequently occur in practice when aggregating human judgments.

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Abstract:We consider model selection for sequential decision making in stochastic environments with bandit feedback, where a meta-learner has at its disposal a pool of base learners, and decides on the fly which action to take based on the policies recommended by each base learner. Model selection is performed by regret balancing but, unlike the recent literature on this subject, we do not assume any prior knowledge about the base learners like candidate regret guarantees; instead, we uncover these quantities in a data-driven manner. The meta-learner is therefore able to leverage the realized regret incurred by each base learner for the learning environment at hand (as opposed to the expected regret), and single out the best such regret. We design two model selection algorithms operating with this more ambitious notion of regret and, besides proving model selection guarantees via regret balancing, we experimentally demonstrate the compelling practical benefits of dealing with actual regrets instead of candidate regret bounds.

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Abstract:Best-of-both-worlds algorithms for online learning which achieve near-optimal regret in both the adversarial and the stochastic regimes have received growing attention recently. Existing techniques often require careful adaptation to every new problem setup, including specialised potentials and careful tuning of algorithm parameters. Yet, in domains such as linear bandits, it is still unknown if there exists an algorithm that can simultaneously obtain $O(\log(T))$ regret in the stochastic regime and $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{T})$ regret in the adversarial regime. In this work, we resolve this question positively and present a general reduction from best of both worlds to a wide family of follow-the-regularized-leader (FTRL) and online-mirror-descent (OMD) algorithms. We showcase the capability of this reduction by transforming existing algorithms that are only known to achieve worst-case guarantees into new algorithms with best-of-both-worlds guarantees in contextual bandits, graph bandits and tabular Markov decision processes.

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Abstract:Policy optimization methods are popular reinforcement learning algorithms in practice. Recent works have built theoretical foundation for them by proving $\sqrt{T}$ regret bounds even when the losses are adversarial. Such bounds are tight in the worst case but often overly pessimistic. In this work, we show that in tabular Markov decision processes (MDPs), by properly designing the regularizer, the exploration bonus and the learning rates, one can achieve a more favorable polylog$(T)$ regret when the losses are stochastic, without sacrificing the worst-case guarantee in the adversarial regime. To our knowledge, this is also the first time a gap-dependent polylog$(T)$ regret bound is shown for policy optimization. Specifically, we achieve this by leveraging a Tsallis entropy or a Shannon entropy regularizer in the policy update. Then we show that under known transitions, we can further obtain a first-order regret bound in the adversarial regime by leveraging the log-barrier regularizer.

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Abstract:POMDPs capture a broad class of decision making problems, but hardness results suggest that learning is intractable even in simple settings due to the inherent partial observability. However, in many realistic problems, more information is either revealed or can be computed during some point of the learning process. Motivated by diverse applications ranging from robotics to data center scheduling, we formulate a Hindsight Observable Markov Decision Process (HOMDP) as a POMDP where the latent states are revealed to the learner in hindsight and only during training. We introduce new algorithms for the tabular and function approximation settings that are provably sample-efficient with hindsight observability, even in POMDPs that would otherwise be statistically intractable. We give a lower bound showing that the tabular algorithm is optimal in its dependence on latent state and observation cardinalities.

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Abstract:Blackwell's celebrated approachability theory provides a general framework for a variety of learning problems, including regret minimization. However, Blackwell's proof and implicit algorithm measure approachability using the $\ell_2$ (Euclidean) distance. We argue that in many applications such as regret minimization, it is more useful to study approachability under other distance metrics, most commonly the $\ell_\infty$-metric. But, the time and space complexity of the algorithms designed for $\ell_\infty$-approachability depend on the dimension of the space of the vectorial payoffs, which is often prohibitively large. Thus, we present a framework for converting high-dimensional $\ell_\infty$-approachability problems to low-dimensional pseudonorm approachability problems, thereby resolving such issues. We first show that the $\ell_\infty$-distance between the average payoff and the approachability set can be equivalently defined as a pseudodistance between a lower-dimensional average vector payoff and a new convex set we define. Next, we develop an algorithmic theory of pseudonorm approachability, analogous to previous work on approachability for $\ell_2$ and other norms, showing that it can be achieved via online linear optimization (OLO) over a convex set given by the Fenchel dual of the unit pseudonorm ball. We then use that to show, modulo mild normalization assumptions, that there exists an $\ell_\infty$-approachability algorithm whose convergence is independent of the dimension of the original vectorial payoff. We further show that that algorithm admits a polynomial-time complexity, assuming that the original $\ell_\infty$-distance can be computed efficiently. We also give an $\ell_\infty$-approachability algorithm whose convergence is logarithmic in that dimension using an FTRL algorithm with a maximum-entropy regularizer.

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Abstract:We study reinforcement learning in stochastic path (SP) problems. The goal in these problems is to maximize the expected sum of rewards until the agent reaches a terminal state. We provide the first regret guarantees in this general problem by analyzing a simple optimistic algorithm. Our regret bound matches the best known results for the well-studied special case of stochastic shortest path (SSP) with all non-positive rewards. For SSP, we present an adaptation procedure for the case when the scale of rewards $B_\star$ is unknown. We show that there is no price for adaptation, and our regret bound matches that with a known $B_\star$. We also provide a scale adaptation procedure for the special case of stochastic longest paths (SLP) where all rewards are non-negative. However, unlike in SSP, we show through a lower bound that there is an unavoidable price for adaptation.

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Abstract:Thompson Sampling is one of the most effective methods for contextual bandits and has been generalized to posterior sampling for certain MDP settings. However, existing posterior sampling methods for reinforcement learning are limited by being model-based or lack worst-case theoretical guarantees beyond linear MDPs. This paper proposes a new model-free formulation of posterior sampling that applies to more general episodic reinforcement learning problems with theoretical guarantees. We introduce novel proof techniques to show that under suitable conditions, the worst-case regret of our posterior sampling method matches the best known results of optimization based methods. In the linear MDP setting with dimension, the regret of our algorithm scales linearly with the dimension as compared to a quadratic dependence of the existing posterior sampling-based exploration algorithms.

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