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Thanh Nguyen-Tang, Raman Arora

We seek to understand what facilitates sample-efficient learning from historical datasets for sequential decision-making, a problem that is popularly known as offline reinforcement learning (RL). Further, we are interested in algorithms that enjoy sample efficiency while leveraging (value) function approximation. In this paper, we address these fundamental questions by (i) proposing a notion of data diversity that subsumes the previous notions of coverage measures in offline RL and (ii) using this notion to {unify} three distinct classes of offline RL algorithms based on version spaces (VS), regularized optimization (RO), and posterior sampling (PS). We establish that VS-based, RO-based, and PS-based algorithms, under standard assumptions, achieve \emph{comparable} sample efficiency, which recovers the state-of-the-art sub-optimality bounds for finite and linear model classes with the standard assumptions. This result is surprising, given that the prior work suggested an unfavorable sample complexity of the RO-based algorithm compared to the VS-based algorithm, whereas posterior sampling is rarely considered in offline RL due to its explorative nature. Notably, our proposed model-free PS-based algorithm for offline RL is {novel}, with sub-optimality bounds that are {frequentist} (i.e., worst-case) in nature.

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Michael Menart, Enayat Ullah, Raman Arora, Raef Bassily, Cristóbal Guzmán

We study private empirical risk minimization (ERM) problem for losses satisfying the $(\gamma,\kappa)$-Kurdyka-{\L}ojasiewicz (KL) condition. The Polyak-{\L}ojasiewicz (PL) condition is a special case of this condition when $\kappa=2$. Specifically, we study this problem under the constraint of $\rho$ zero-concentrated differential privacy (zCDP). When $\kappa\in[1,2]$ and the loss function is Lipschitz and smooth over a sufficiently large region, we provide a new algorithm based on variance reduced gradient descent that achieves the rate $\tilde{O}\big(\big(\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\sqrt{\rho}}\big)^\kappa\big)$ on the excess empirical risk, where $n$ is the dataset size and $d$ is the dimension. We further show that this rate is nearly optimal. When $\kappa \geq 2$ and the loss is instead Lipschitz and weakly convex, we show it is possible to achieve the rate $\tilde{O}\big(\big(\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\sqrt{\rho}}\big)^\kappa\big)$ with a private implementation of the proximal point method. When the KL parameters are unknown, we provide a novel modification and analysis of the noisy gradient descent algorithm and show that this algorithm achieves a rate of $\tilde{O}\big(\big(\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\sqrt{\rho}}\big)^{\frac{2\kappa}{4-\kappa}}\big)$ adaptively, which is nearly optimal when $\kappa = 2$. We further show that, without assuming the KL condition, the same gradient descent algorithm can achieve fast convergence to a stationary point when the gradient stays sufficiently large during the run of the algorithm. Specifically, we show that this algorithm can approximate stationary points of Lipschitz, smooth (and possibly nonconvex) objectives with rate as fast as $\tilde{O}\big(\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\sqrt{\rho}}\big)$ and never worse than $\tilde{O}\big(\big(\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\sqrt{\rho}}\big)^{1/2}\big)$. The latter rate matches the best known rate for methods that do not rely on variance reduction.

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Enayat Ullah, Raman Arora

We formalize the problem of machine unlearning as design of efficient unlearning algorithms corresponding to learning algorithms which perform a selection of adaptive queries from structured query classes. We give efficient unlearning algorithms for linear and prefix-sum query classes. As applications, we show that unlearning in many problems, in particular, stochastic convex optimization (SCO), can be reduced to the above, yielding improved guarantees for the problem. In particular, for smooth Lipschitz losses and any $\rho>0$, our results yield an unlearning algorithm with excess population risk of $\tilde O\big(\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}+\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\rho}\big)$ with unlearning query (gradient) complexity $\tilde O(\rho \cdot \text{Retraining Complexity})$, where $d$ is the model dimensionality and $n$ is the initial number of samples. For non-smooth Lipschitz losses, we give an unlearning algorithm with excess population risk $\tilde O\big(\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}+\big(\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\rho}\big)^{1/2}\big)$ with the same unlearning query (gradient) complexity. Furthermore, in the special case of Generalized Linear Models (GLMs), such as those in linear and logistic regression, we get dimension-independent rates of $\tilde O\big(\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}} +\frac{1}{(n\rho)^{2/3}}\big)$ and $\tilde O\big(\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}} +\frac{1}{(n\rho)^{1/3}}\big)$ for smooth Lipschitz and non-smooth Lipschitz losses respectively. Finally, we give generalizations of the above from one unlearning request to \textit{dynamic} streams consisting of insertions and deletions.

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Thanh Nguyen-Tang, Raman Arora

We propose a novel algorithm for offline reinforcement learning called Value Iteration with Perturbed Rewards (VIPeR), which amalgamates the pessimism principle with random perturbations of the value function. Most current offline RL algorithms explicitly construct statistical confidence regions to obtain pessimism via lower confidence bounds (LCB), which cannot easily scale to complex problems where a neural network is used to estimate the value functions. Instead, VIPeR implicitly obtains pessimism by simply perturbing the offline data multiple times with carefully-designed i.i.d. Gaussian noises to learn an ensemble of estimated state-action {value functions} and acting greedily with respect to the minimum of the ensemble. The estimated state-action values are obtained by fitting a parametric model (e.g., neural networks) to the perturbed datasets using gradient descent. As a result, VIPeR only needs $\mathcal{O}(1)$ time complexity for action selection, while LCB-based algorithms require at least $\Omega(K^2)$, where $K$ is the total number of trajectories in the offline data. We also propose a novel data-splitting technique that helps remove a factor involving the log of the covering number in our bound. We prove that VIPeR yields a provable uncertainty quantifier with overparameterized neural networks and enjoys a bound on sub-optimality of $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}( { \kappa H^{5/2} \tilde{d} }/{\sqrt{K}})$, where $\tilde{d}$ is the effective dimension, $H$ is the horizon length and $\kappa$ measures the distributional shift. We corroborate the statistical and computational efficiency of VIPeR with an empirical evaluation on a wide set of synthetic and real-world datasets. To the best of our knowledge, VIPeR is the first algorithm for offline RL that is provably efficient for general Markov decision processes (MDPs) with neural network function approximation.

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Thanh Nguyen-Tang, Raman Arora

We propose a novel offline reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm, namely Value Iteration with Perturbed Rewards (VIPeR) which amalgamates the randomized value function idea with the pessimism principle. Most current offline RL algorithms explicitly construct statistical confidence regions to obtain pessimism via lower confidence bounds (LCB), which cannot easily scale to complex problems where a neural network is used to estimate the value functions. Instead, VIPeR implicitly obtains pessimism by simply perturbing the offline data multiple times with carefully-designed i.i.d Gaussian noises to learn an ensemble of estimated state-action values and acting greedily to the minimum of the ensemble. The estimated state-action values are obtained by fitting a parametric model (e.g. neural networks) to the perturbed datasets using gradient descent. As a result, VIPeR only needs $\mathcal{O}(1)$ time complexity for action selection while LCB-based algorithms require at least $\Omega(K^2)$, where $K$ is the total number of trajectories in the offline data. We also propose a novel data splitting technique that helps remove the potentially large log covering number in the learning bound. We prove that VIPeR yields a provable uncertainty quantifier with overparameterized neural networks and achieves an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}\left( \frac{ \kappa H^{5/2} \tilde{d} }{\sqrt{K}} \right)$ sub-optimality where $\tilde{d}$ is the effective dimension, $H$ is the horizon length and $\kappa$ measures the distributional shift. We corroborate the statistical and computational efficiency of VIPeR with an empirical evaluation in a wide set of synthetic and real-world datasets. To the best of our knowledge, VIPeR is the first offline RL algorithm that is both provably and computationally efficient in general Markov decision processes (MDPs) with neural network function approximation.

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Thanh Nguyen-Tang, Ming Yin, Sunil Gupta, Svetha Venkatesh, Raman Arora

Sample-efficient offline reinforcement learning (RL) with linear function approximation has recently been studied extensively. Much of prior work has yielded the minimax-optimal bound of $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\frac{1}{\sqrt{K}})$, with $K$ being the number of episodes in the offline data. In this work, we seek to understand instance-dependent bounds for offline RL with function approximation. We present an algorithm called Bootstrapped and Constrained Pessimistic Value Iteration (BCP-VI), which leverages data bootstrapping and constrained optimization on top of pessimism. We show that under a partial data coverage assumption, that of \emph{concentrability} with respect to an optimal policy, the proposed algorithm yields a fast rate of $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\frac{1}{K})$ for offline RL when there is a positive gap in the optimal Q-value functions, even when the offline data were adaptively collected. Moreover, when the linear features of the optimal actions in the states reachable by an optimal policy span those reachable by the behavior policy and the optimal actions are unique, offline RL achieves absolute zero sub-optimality error when $K$ exceeds a (finite) instance-dependent threshold. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\frac{1}{K})$ bound and absolute zero sub-optimality bound respectively for offline RL with linear function approximation from adaptive data with partial coverage. We also provide instance-agnostic and instance-dependent information-theoretical lower bounds to complement our upper bounds.

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Jared Markowitz, Ryan W. Gardner, Ashley Llorens, Raman Arora, I-Jeng Wang

Standard deep reinforcement learning (DRL) aims to maximize expected reward, considering collected experiences equally in formulating a policy. This differs from human decision-making, where gains and losses are valued differently and outlying outcomes are given increased consideration. It also fails to capitalize on opportunities to improve safety and/or performance through the incorporation of distributional context. Several approaches to distributional DRL have been investigated, with one popular strategy being to evaluate the projected distribution of returns for possible actions. We propose a more direct approach whereby risk-sensitive objectives, specified in terms of the cumulative distribution function (CDF) of the distribution of full-episode rewards, are optimized. This approach allows for outcomes to be weighed based on relative quality, can be used for both continuous and discrete action spaces, and may naturally be applied in both constrained and unconstrained settings. We show how to compute an asymptotically consistent estimate of the policy gradient for a broad class of risk-sensitive objectives via sampling, subsequently incorporating variance reduction and regularization measures to facilitate effective on-policy learning. We then demonstrate that the use of moderately "pessimistic" risk profiles, which emphasize scenarios where the agent performs poorly, leads to enhanced exploration and a continual focus on addressing deficiencies. We test the approach using different risk profiles in six OpenAI Safety Gym environments, comparing to state of the art on-policy methods. Without cost constraints, we find that pessimistic risk profiles can be used to reduce cost while improving total reward accumulation. With cost constraints, they are seen to provide higher positive rewards than risk-neutral approaches at the prescribed allowable cost.

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Raman Arora, Raef Bassily, Tomás González, Cristóbal Guzmán, Michael Menart, Enayat Ullah

We study the problem of approximating stationary points of Lipschitz and smooth functions under $(\varepsilon,\delta)$-differential privacy (DP) in both the finite-sum and stochastic settings. A point $\widehat{w}$ is called an $\alpha$-stationary point of a function $F:\mathbb{R}^d\rightarrow\mathbb{R}$ if $\|\nabla F(\widehat{w})\|\leq \alpha$. We provide a new efficient algorithm that finds an $\tilde{O}\big(\big[\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\varepsilon}\big]^{2/3}\big)$-stationary point in the finite-sum setting, where $n$ is the number of samples. This improves on the previous best rate of $\tilde{O}\big(\big[\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\varepsilon}\big]^{1/2}\big)$. We also give a new construction that improves over the existing rates in the stochastic optimization setting, where the goal is to find approximate stationary points of the population risk. Our construction finds a $\tilde{O}\big(\frac{1}{n^{1/3}} + \big[\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\varepsilon}\big]^{1/2}\big)$-stationary point of the population risk in time linear in $n$. Furthermore, under the additional assumption of convexity, we completely characterize the sample complexity of finding stationary points of the population risk (up to polylog factors) and show that the optimal rate on population stationarity is $\tilde \Theta\big(\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}+\frac{\sqrt{d}}{n\varepsilon}\big)$. Finally, we show that our methods can be used to provide dimension-independent rates of $O\big(\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}+\min\big(\big[\frac{\sqrt{rank}}{n\varepsilon}\big]^{2/3},\frac{1}{(n\varepsilon)^{2/5}}\big)\big)$ on population stationarity for Generalized Linear Models (GLM), where $rank$ is the rank of the design matrix, which improves upon the previous best known rate.

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Raman Arora, Raef Bassily, Cristóbal Guzmán, Michael Menart, Enayat Ullah

We study the problem of $(\epsilon,\delta)$-differentially private learning of linear predictors with convex losses. We provide results for two subclasses of loss functions. The first case is when the loss is smooth and non-negative but not necessarily Lipschitz (such as the squared loss). For this case, we establish an upper bound on the excess population risk of $\tilde{O}\left(\frac{\Vert w^*\Vert}{\sqrt{n}} + \min\left\{\frac{\Vert w^* \Vert^2}{(n\epsilon)^{2/3}},\frac{\sqrt{d}\Vert w^*\Vert^2}{n\epsilon}\right\}\right)$, where $n$ is the number of samples, $d$ is the dimension of the problem, and $w^*$ is the minimizer of the population risk. Apart from the dependence on $\Vert w^\ast\Vert$, our bound is essentially tight in all parameters. In particular, we show a lower bound of $\tilde{\Omega}\left(\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}} + {\min\left\{\frac{\Vert w^*\Vert^{4/3}}{(n\epsilon)^{2/3}}, \frac{\sqrt{d}\Vert w^*\Vert}{n\epsilon}\right\}}\right)$. We also revisit the previously studied case of Lipschitz losses [SSTT20]. For this case, we close the gap in the existing work and show that the optimal rate is (up to log factors) $\Theta\left(\frac{\Vert w^*\Vert}{\sqrt{n}} + \min\left\{\frac{\Vert w^*\Vert}{\sqrt{n\epsilon}},\frac{\sqrt{\text{rank}}\Vert w^*\Vert}{n\epsilon}\right\}\right)$, where $\text{rank}$ is the rank of the design matrix. This improves over existing work in the high privacy regime. Finally, our algorithms involve a private model selection approach that we develop to enable attaining the stated rates without a-priori knowledge of $\Vert w^*\Vert$.

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Enayat Ullah, Tung Mai, Anup Rao, Ryan Rossi, Raman Arora

We study the problem of machine unlearning and identify a notion of algorithmic stability, Total Variation (TV) stability, which we argue, is suitable for the goal of exact unlearning. For convex risk minimization problems, we design TV-stable algorithms based on noisy Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD). Our key contribution is the design of corresponding efficient unlearning algorithms, which are based on constructing a (maximal) coupling of Markov chains for the noisy SGD procedure. To understand the trade-offs between accuracy and unlearning efficiency, we give upper and lower bounds on excess empirical and populations risk of TV stable algorithms for convex risk minimization. Our techniques generalize to arbitrary non-convex functions, and our algorithms are differentially private as well.

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