Bandits with feedback graphs are powerful online learning models that interpolate between the full information and classic bandit problems, capturing many real-life applications. A recent work by Zhang et al. (2023) studies the contextual version of this problem and proposes an efficient and optimal algorithm via a reduction to online regression. However, their algorithm crucially relies on seeing the feedback graph before making each decision, while in many applications, the feedback graph is uninformed, meaning that it is either only revealed after the learner makes her decision or even never fully revealed at all. This work develops the first contextual algorithm for such uninformed settings, via an efficient reduction to online regression over both the losses and the graphs. Importantly, we show that it is critical to learn the graphs using log loss instead of squared loss to obtain favorable regret guarantees. We also demonstrate the empirical effectiveness of our algorithm on a bidding application using both synthetic and real-world data.
Estimation of the complete distribution of a random variable is a useful primitive for both manual and automated decision making. This problem has received extensive attention in the i.i.d. setting, but the arbitrary data dependent setting remains largely unaddressed. Consistent with known impossibility results, we present computationally felicitous time-uniform and value-uniform bounds on the CDF of the running averaged conditional distribution of a real-valued random variable which are always valid and sometimes trivial, along with an instance-dependent convergence guarantee. The importance-weighted extension is appropriate for estimating complete counterfactual distributions of rewards given controlled experimentation data exhaust, e.g., from an A/B test or a contextual bandit.
When feedback is partial, leveraging all available information is critical to minimizing data requirements. Graph feedback, which interpolates between the supervised and bandit regimes, has been extensively studied; but the mature theory is grounded in impractical algorithms. We present and analyze an approach to contextual bandits with graph feedback based upon reduction to regression. The resulting algorithms are practical and achieve known minimax rates.
For infinite action contextual bandits, smoothed regret and reduction to regression results in state-of-the-art online statistical performance with computational cost independent of the action set: unfortunately, the resulting data exhaust does not have well-defined importance-weights. This frustrates the execution of downstream data science processes such as offline model selection. In this paper we describe an online algorithm with an equivalent smoothed regret guarantee, but which generates well-defined importance weights: in exchange, the online computational cost increases, but only to order smoothness (i.e., still independent of the action set). This removes a key obstacle to adoption of smoothed regret in production scenarios.
In an era of countless content offerings, recommender systems alleviate information overload by providing users with personalized content suggestions. Due to the scarcity of explicit user feedback, modern recommender systems typically optimize for the same fixed combination of implicit feedback signals across all users. However, this approach disregards a growing body of work highlighting that (i) implicit signals can be used by users in diverse ways, signaling anything from satisfaction to active dislike, and (ii) different users communicate preferences in different ways. We propose applying the recent Interaction Grounded Learning (IGL) paradigm to address the challenge of learning representations of diverse user communication modalities. Rather than taking a fixed, human-designed reward function, IGL is able to learn personalized reward functions for different users and then optimize directly for the latent user satisfaction. We demonstrate the success of IGL with experiments using simulations as well as with real-world production traces.
Modern decision-making systems, from robots to web recommendation engines, are expected to adapt: to user preferences, changing circumstances or even new tasks. Yet, it is still uncommon to deploy a dynamically learning agent (rather than a fixed policy) to a production system, as it's perceived as unsafe. Using historical data to reason about learning algorithms, similar to offline policy evaluation (OPE) applied to fixed policies, could help practitioners evaluate and ultimately deploy such adaptive agents to production. In this work, we formalize offline learner simulation (OLS) for reinforcement learning (RL) and propose a novel evaluation protocol that measures both fidelity and efficiency of the simulation. For environments with complex high-dimensional observations, we propose a semi-parametric approach that leverages recent advances in latent state discovery in order to achieve accurate and efficient offline simulations. In preliminary experiments, we show the advantage of our approach compared to fully non-parametric baselines. The code to reproduce these experiments will be made available at https://github.com/microsoft/rl-offline-simulation.
* Presented at the 3rd Offline Reinforcement Learning Workshop at
This work introduces the Eigen Memory Tree (EMT), a novel online memory model for sequential learning scenarios. EMTs store data at the leaves of a binary tree and route new samples through the structure using the principal components of previous experiences, facilitating efficient (logarithmic) access to relevant memories. We demonstrate that EMT outperforms existing online memory approaches, and provide a hybridized EMT-parametric algorithm that enjoys drastically improved performance over purely parametric methods with nearly no downsides. Our findings are validated using 206 datasets from the OpenML repository in both bounded and infinite memory budget situations.
* corrected an author name; corrected title plurality
Modern analytical workloads are highly heterogeneous and massively complex, making generic query optimizers untenable for many customers and scenarios. As a result, it is important to specialize these optimizers to instances of the workloads. In this paper, we continue a recent line of work in steering a query optimizer towards better plans for a given workload, and make major strides in pushing previous research ideas to production deployment. Along the way we solve several operational challenges including, making steering actions more manageable, keeping the costs of steering within budget, and avoiding unexpected performance regressions in production. Our resulting system, QQ-advisor, essentially externalizes the query planner to a massive offline pipeline for better exploration and specialization. We discuss various aspects of our design and show detailed results over production SCOPE workloads at Microsoft, where the system is currently enabled by default.
* Proceedings of the 2022 International Conference on Management of
Data 2022 Jun 10 (pp. 2299-2311)
We desire to apply contextual bandits to scenarios where average-case statistical guarantees are inadequate. Happily, we discover the composition of reduction to online regression and expectile loss is analytically tractable, computationally convenient, and empirically effective. The result is the first risk-averse contextual bandit algorithm with an online regret guarantee. We state our precise regret guarantee and conduct experiments from diverse scenarios in dynamic pricing, inventory management, and self-tuning software; including results from a production exascale cloud data processing system.
Contextual bandits are a modern staple tool for active sequential experimentation in the tech industry. They involve online learning algorithms that adaptively (over time) learn policies to map observed contexts $X_t$ to actions $A_t$ in an attempt to maximize stochastic rewards $R_t$. This adaptivity raises interesting but hard statistical inference questions, especially counterfactual ones: for example, it is often of interest to estimate the properties of a hypothetical policy that is different from the logging policy that was used to collect the data -- a problem known as "off-policy evaluation" (OPE). Using modern martingale techniques, we present a comprehensive framework for OPE inference that relax many unnecessary assumptions made in past work, significantly improving on them theoretically and empirically. Our methods remain valid in very general settings, and can be employed while the original experiment is still running (that is, not necessarily post-hoc), when the logging policy may be itself changing (due to learning), and even if the context distributions are drifting over time. More concretely, we derive confidence sequences for various functionals of interest in OPE. These include doubly robust ones for time-varying off-policy mean reward values, but also confidence bands for the entire CDF of the off-policy reward distribution. All of our methods (a) are valid at arbitrary stopping times (b) only make nonparametric assumptions, and (c) do not require known bounds on the maximal importance weights, and (d) adapt to the empirical variance of the reward and weight distributions. In summary, our methods enable anytime-valid off-policy inference using adaptively collected contextual bandit data.