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Abstract:We study the representative arm identification (RAI) problem in the multi-armed bandits (MAB) framework, wherein we have a collection of arms, each associated with an unknown reward distribution. An underlying instance is defined by a partitioning of the arms into clusters of predefined sizes, such that for any $j > i$, all arms in cluster $i$ have a larger mean reward than those in cluster $j$. The goal in RAI is to reliably identify a certain prespecified number of arms from each cluster, while using as few arm pulls as possible. The RAI problem covers as special cases several well-studied MAB problems such as identifying the best arm or any $M$ out of the top $K$, as well as both full and coarse ranking. We start by providing an instance-dependent lower bound on the sample complexity of any feasible algorithm for this setting. We then propose two algorithms, based on the idea of confidence intervals, and provide high probability upper bounds on their sample complexity, which orderwise match the lower bound. Finally, we do an empirical comparison of both algorithms along with an LUCB-type alternative on both synthetic and real-world datasets, and demonstrate the superior performance of our proposed schemes in most cases.

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Abstract:We study best arm identification in a variant of the multi-armed bandit problem where the learner has limited precision in arm selection. The learner can only sample arms via certain exploration bundles, which we refer to as boxes. In particular, at each sampling epoch, the learner selects a box, which in turn causes an arm to get pulled as per a box-specific probability distribution. The pulled arm and its instantaneous reward are revealed to the learner, whose goal is to find the best arm by minimising the expected stopping time, subject to an upper bound on the error probability. We present an asymptotic lower bound on the expected stopping time, which holds as the error probability vanishes. We show that the optimal allocation suggested by the lower bound is, in general, non-unique and therefore challenging to track. We propose a modified tracking-based algorithm to handle non-unique optimal allocations, and demonstrate that it is asymptotically optimal. We also present non-asymptotic lower and upper bounds on the stopping time in the simpler setting when the arms accessible from one box do not overlap with those of others.

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Abstract:We study the problem of best-arm identification in a distributed variant of the multi-armed bandit setting, with a central learner and multiple agents. Each agent is associated with an arm of the bandit, generating stochastic rewards following an unknown distribution. Further, each agent can communicate the observed rewards with the learner over a bit-constrained channel. We propose a novel quantization scheme called Inflating Confidence for Quantization (ICQ) that can be applied to existing confidence-bound based learning algorithms such as Successive Elimination. We analyze the performance of ICQ applied to Successive Elimination and show that the overall algorithm, named ICQ-SE, has the order-optimal sample complexity as that of the (unquantized) SE algorithm. Moreover, it requires only an exponentially sparse frequency of communication between the learner and the agents, thus requiring considerably fewer bits than existing quantization schemes to successfully identify the best arm. We validate the performance improvement offered by ICQ with other quantization methods through numerical experiments.

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Abstract:We consider the problem of service hosting where a service provider can dynamically rent edge resources via short term contracts to ensure better quality of service to its customers. The service can also be partially hosted at the edge, in which case, customers' requests can be partially served at the edge. The total cost incurred by the system is modeled as a combination of the rent cost, the service cost incurred due to latency in serving customers, and the fetch cost incurred as a result of the bandwidth used to fetch the code/databases of the service from the cloud servers to host the service at the edge. In this paper, we compare multiple hosting policies with regret as a metric, defined as the difference in the cost incurred by the policy and the optimal policy over some time horizon $T$. In particular we consider the Retro Renting (RR) and Follow The Perturbed Leader (FTPL) policies proposed in the literature and provide performance guarantees on the regret of these policies. We show that under i.i.d stochastic arrivals, RR policy has linear regret while FTPL policy has constant regret. Next, we propose a variant of FTPL, namely Wait then FTPL (W-FTPL), which also has constant regret while demonstrating much better dependence on the fetch cost. We also show that under adversarial arrivals, RR policy has linear regret while both FTPL and W-FTPL have regret $\mathrm{O}(\sqrt{T})$ which is order-optimal.

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Abstract:We consider a population, partitioned into a set of communities, and study the problem of identifying the largest community within the population via sequential, random sampling of individuals. There are multiple sampling domains, referred to as \emph{boxes}, which also partition the population. Each box may consist of individuals of different communities, and each community may in turn be spread across multiple boxes. The learning agent can, at any time, sample (with replacement) a random individual from any chosen box; when this is done, the agent learns the community the sampled individual belongs to, and also whether or not this individual has been sampled before. The goal of the agent is to minimize the probability of mis-identifying the largest community in a \emph{fixed budget} setting, by optimizing both the sampling strategy as well as the decision rule. We propose and analyse novel algorithms for this problem, and also establish information theoretic lower bounds on the probability of error under any algorithm. In several cases of interest, the exponential decay rates of the probability of error under our algorithms are shown to be optimal up to constant factors. The proposed algorithms are further validated via simulations on real-world datasets.

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Abstract:We study a variant of the canonical $k$-center problem over a set of vertices in a metric space, where the underlying distances are apriori unknown. Instead, we can query an oracle which provides noisy/incomplete estimates of the distance between any pair of vertices. We consider two oracle models: Dimension Sampling where each query to the oracle returns the distance between a pair of points in one dimension; and Noisy Distance Sampling where the oracle returns the true distance corrupted by noise. We propose active algorithms, based on ideas such as UCB and Thompson sampling developed in the closely related Multi-Armed Bandit problem, which adaptively decide which queries to send to the oracle and are able to solve the $k$-center problem within an approximation ratio of two with high probability. We analytically characterize instance-dependent query complexity of our algorithms and also demonstrate significant improvements over naive implementations via numerical evaluations on two real-world datasets (Tiny ImageNet and UT Zappos50K).

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Abstract:Motivated by the mode estimation problem of an unknown multivariate probability density function, we study the problem of identifying the point with the minimum k-th nearest neighbor distance for a given dataset of n points. We study the case where the pairwise distances are apriori unknown, but we have access to an oracle which we can query to get noisy information about the distance between any pair of points. For two natural oracle models, we design a sequential learning algorithm, based on the idea of confidence intervals, which adaptively decides which queries to send to the oracle and is able to correctly solve the problem with high probability. We derive instance-dependent upper bounds on the query complexity of our proposed scheme and also demonstrate significant improvement over the performance of other baselines via extensive numerical evaluations.

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Abstract:We consider the problem of identifying the subset $\mathcal{S}^{\gamma}_{\mathcal{P}}$ of elements in the support of an underlying distribution $\mathcal{P}$ whose probability value is larger than a given threshold $\gamma$, by actively querying an oracle to gain information about a sequence $X_1, X_2, \ldots$ of $i.i.d.$ samples drawn from $\mathcal{P}$. We consider two query models: $(a)$ each query is an index $i$ and the oracle return the value $X_i$ and $(b)$ each query is a pair $(i,j)$ and the oracle gives a binary answer confirming if $X_i = X_j$ or not. For each of these query models, we design sequential estimation algorithms which at each round, either decide what query to send to the oracle depending on the entire history of responses or decide to stop and output an estimate of $\mathcal{S}^{\gamma}_{\mathcal{P}}$, which is required to be correct with some pre-specified large probability. We provide upper bounds on the query complexity of the algorithms for any distribution $\mathcal{P}$ and also derive lower bounds on the optimal query complexity under the two query models. We also consider noisy versions of the two query models and propose robust estimators which can effectively counter the noise in the oracle responses.

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Abstract:We consider the problem of adaptively PAC-learning a probability distribution $\mathcal{P}$'s mode by querying an oracle for information about a sequence of i.i.d. samples $X_1, X_2, \ldots$ generated from $\mathcal{P}$. We consider two different query models: (a) each query is an index $i$ for which the oracle reveals the value of the sample $X_i$, (b) each query is comprised of two indices $i$ and $j$ for which the oracle reveals if the samples $X_i$ and $X_j$ are the same or not. For these query models, we give sequential mode-estimation algorithms which, at each time $t$, either make a query to the corresponding oracle based on past observations, or decide to stop and output an estimate for the distribution's mode, required to be correct with a specified confidence. We analyze the query complexity of these algorithms for any underlying distribution $\mathcal{P}$, and derive corresponding lower bounds on the optimal query complexity under the two querying models.

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Abstract:Personalized recommendation systems (RS) are extensively used in many services. Many of these are based on learning algorithms where the RS uses the recommendation history and the user response to learn an optimal strategy. Further, these algorithms are based on the assumption that the user interests are rigid. Specifically, they do not account for the effect of learning strategy on the evolution of the user interests. In this paper we develop influence models for a learning algorithm that is used to optimally recommend websites to web users. We adapt the model of \cite{Ioannidis10} to include an item-dependent reward to the RS from the suggestions that are accepted by the user. For this we first develop a static optimisation scheme when all the parameters are known. Next we develop a stochastic approximation based learning scheme for the RS to learn the optimal strategy when the user profiles are not known. Finally, we describe several user-influence models for the learning algorithm and analyze their effect on the steady user interests and on the steady state optimal strategy as compared to that when the users are not influenced.

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