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Li Fan, Ruida Zhou, Chao Tian, Cong Shen

We study a federated linear bandits model, where $M$ clients communicate with a central server to solve a linear contextual bandits problem with finite adversarial action sets that may be different across clients. To address the unique challenges of adversarial finite action sets, we propose the FedSupLinUCB algorithm, which extends the principles of SupLinUCB and OFUL algorithms in linear contextual bandits. We prove that FedSupLinUCB achieves a total regret of $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{d T})$, where $T$ is the total number of arm pulls from all clients, and $d$ is the ambient dimension of the linear model. This matches the minimax lower bound and thus is order-optimal (up to polylog terms). We study both asynchronous and synchronous cases and show that the communication cost can be controlled as $O(d M^2 \log(d)\log(T))$ and $O(\sqrt{d^3 M^3} \log(d))$, respectively. The FedSupLinUCB design is further extended to two scenarios: (1) variance-adaptive, where a total regret of $\tilde{O} (\sqrt{d \sum \nolimits_{t=1}^{T} \sigma_t^2})$ can be achieved with $\sigma_t^2$ being the noise variance of round $t$; and (2) adversarial corruption, where a total regret of $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{dT} + d C_p)$ can be achieved with $C_p$ being the total corruption budget. Experiment results corroborate the theoretical analysis and demonstrate the effectiveness of FedSupLinUCB on both synthetic and real-world datasets.

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Youbang Sun, Tao Liu, Ruida Zhou, P. R. Kumar, Shahin Shahrampour

This work studies an independent natural policy gradient (NPG) algorithm for the multi-agent reinforcement learning problem in Markov potential games. It is shown that, under mild technical assumptions and the introduction of the \textit{suboptimality gap}, the independent NPG method with an oracle providing exact policy evaluation asymptotically reaches an $\epsilon$-Nash Equilibrium (NE) within $\mathcal{O}(1/\epsilon)$ iterations. This improves upon the previous best result of $\mathcal{O}(1/\epsilon^2)$ iterations and is of the same order, $\mathcal{O}(1/\epsilon)$, that is achievable for the single-agent case. Empirical results for a synthetic potential game and a congestion game are presented to verify the theoretical bounds.

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Ruida Zhou, Tao Liu, Min Cheng, Dileep Kalathil, P. R. Kumar, Chao Tian

We study robust reinforcement learning (RL) with the goal of determining a well-performing policy that is robust against model mismatch between the training simulator and the testing environment. Previous policy-based robust RL algorithms mainly focus on the tabular setting under uncertainty sets that facilitate robust policy evaluation, but are no longer tractable when the number of states scales up. To this end, we propose two novel uncertainty set formulations, one based on double sampling and the other on an integral probability metric. Both make large-scale robust RL tractable even when one only has access to a simulator. We propose a robust natural actor-critic (RNAC) approach that incorporates the new uncertainty sets and employs function approximation. We provide finite-time convergence guarantees for the proposed RNAC algorithm to the optimal robust policy within the function approximation error. Finally, we demonstrate the robust performance of the policy learned by our proposed RNAC approach in multiple MuJoCo environments and a real-world TurtleBot navigation task.

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Ruida Zhou, Chao Tian, Tie Liu

We provide a new information-theoretic generalization error bound that is exactly tight (i.e., matching even the constant) for the canonical quadratic Gaussian mean estimation problem. Despite considerable existing efforts in deriving information-theoretic generalization error bounds, applying them to this simple setting where sample average is used as the estimate of the mean value of Gaussian data has not yielded satisfying results. In fact, most existing bounds are order-wise loose in this setting, which has raised concerns about the fundamental capability of information-theoretic bounds in reasoning the generalization behavior for machine learning. The proposed new bound adopts the individual-sample-based approach proposed by Bu et al., but also has several key new ingredients. Firstly, instead of applying the change of measure inequality on the loss function, we apply it to the generalization error function itself; secondly, the bound is derived in a conditional manner; lastly, a reference distribution, which bears a certain similarity to the prior distribution in the Bayesian setting, is introduced. The combination of these components produces a general KL-divergence-based generalization error bound. We further show that although the conditional bounding and the reference distribution can make the bound exactly tight, removing them does not significantly degrade the bound, which leads to a mutual-information-based bound that is also asymptotically tight in this setting.

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Ruida Zhou, Tao Liu, Dileep Kalathil, P. R. Kumar, Chao Tian

We study policy optimization for Markov decision processes (MDPs) with multiple reward value functions, which are to be jointly optimized according to given criteria such as proportional fairness (smooth concave scalarization), hard constraints (constrained MDP), and max-min trade-off. We propose an Anchor-changing Regularized Natural Policy Gradient (ARNPG) framework, which can systematically incorporate ideas from well-performing first-order methods into the design of policy optimization algorithms for multi-objective MDP problems. Theoretically, the designed algorithms based on the ARNPG framework achieve $\tilde{O}(1/T)$ global convergence with exact gradients. Empirically, the ARNPG-guided algorithms also demonstrate superior performance compared to some existing policy gradient-based approaches in both exact gradients and sample-based scenarios.

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Ruida Zhou, Chao Tian

We study the effect of reward variance heterogeneity in the approximate top-$m$ arm identification setting. In this setting, the reward for the $i$-th arm follows a $\sigma^2_i$-sub-Gaussian distribution, and the agent needs to incorporate this knowledge to minimize the expected number of arm pulls to identify $m$ arms with the largest means within error $\epsilon$ out of the $n$ arms, with probability at least $1-\delta$. We show that the worst-case sample complexity of this problem is $$\Theta\left( \sum_{i =1}^n \frac{\sigma_i^2}{\epsilon^2} \ln\frac{1}{\delta} + \sum_{i \in G^{m}} \frac{\sigma_i^2}{\epsilon^2} \ln(m) + \sum_{j \in G^{l}} \frac{\sigma_j^2}{\epsilon^2} \text{Ent}(\sigma^2_{G^{r}}) \right),$$ where $G^{m}, G^{l}, G^{r}$ are certain specific subsets of the overall arm set $\{1, 2, \ldots, n\}$, and $\text{Ent}(\cdot)$ is an entropy-like function which measures the heterogeneity of the variance proxies. The upper bound of the complexity is obtained using a divide-and-conquer style algorithm, while the matching lower bound relies on the study of a dual formulation.

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Wenjing Chen, Ruida Zhou, Chao Tian, Cong Shen

We analyze the performance of the Borda counting algorithm in a non-parametric model. The algorithm needs to utilize probabilistic rankings of the items within $m$-sized subsets to accurately determine which items are the overall top-$k$ items in a total of $n$ items. The Borda counting algorithm simply counts the cumulative scores for each item from these partial ranking observations. This generalizes a previous work of a similar nature by Shah et al. using probabilistic pairwise comparison data. The performance of the Borda counting algorithm critically depends on the associated score separation $\Delta_k$ between the $k$-th item and the $(k+1)$-th item. Specifically, we show that if $\Delta_k$ is greater than certain value, then the top-$k$ items selected by the algorithm is asymptotically accurate almost surely; if $\Delta_k$ is below certain value, then the result will be inaccurate with a constant probability. In the special case of $m=2$, i.e., pairwise comparison, the resultant bound is tighter than that given by Shah et al., leading to a reduced gap between the error probability upper and lower bounds. These results are further extended to the approximate top-$k$ selection setting. Numerical experiments demonstrate the effectiveness and accuracy of the Borda counting algorithm, compared with the spectral MLE-based algorithm, particularly when the data does not necessarily follow an assumed parametric model.

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Tao Liu, Ruida Zhou, Dileep Kalathil, P. R. Kumar, Chao Tian

We address the issue of safety in reinforcement learning. We pose the problem in a discounted infinite-horizon constrained Markov decision process framework. Existing results have shown that gradient-based methods are able to achieve an $\mathcal{O}(1/\sqrt{T})$ global convergence rate both for the optimality gap and the constraint violation. We exhibit a natural policy gradient-based algorithm that has a faster convergence rate $\mathcal{O}(\log(T)/T)$ for both the optimality gap and the constraint violation. When Slater's condition is satisfied and known a priori, zero constraint violation can be further guaranteed for a sufficiently large $T$ while maintaining the same convergence rate.

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Tao Liu, Ruida Zhou, Dileep Kalathil, P. R. Kumar, Chao Tian

We address the issue of safety in reinforcement learning. We pose the problem in an episodic framework of a constrained Markov decision process. Existing results have shown that it is possible to achieve a reward regret of $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{K})$ while allowing an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{K})$ constraint violation in $K$ episodes. A critical question that arises is whether it is possible to keep the constraint violation even smaller. We show that when a strictly safe policy is known, then one can confine the system to zero constraint violation with arbitrarily high probability while keeping the reward regret of order $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{K})$. The algorithm which does so employs the principle of optimistic pessimism in the face of uncertainty to achieve safe exploration. When no strictly safe policy is known, though one is known to exist, then it is possible to restrict the system to bounded constraint violation with arbitrarily high probability. This is shown to be realized by a primal-dual algorithm with an optimistic primal estimate and a pessimistic dual update.

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