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Abstract:Generative Flow Networks (GFlowNets) treat sampling from distributions over compositional discrete spaces as a sequential decision-making problem, training a stochastic policy to construct objects step by step. Recent studies have revealed strong connections between GFlowNets and entropy-regularized reinforcement learning. Building on these insights, we propose to enhance planning capabilities of GFlowNets by applying Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS). Specifically, we show how the MENTS algorithm (Xiao et al., 2019) can be adapted for GFlowNets and used during both training and inference. Our experiments demonstrate that this approach improves the sample efficiency of GFlowNet training and the generation fidelity of pre-trained GFlowNet models.

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Abstract:In this paper, we obtain the Berry-Esseen bound for multivariate normal approximation for the Polyak-Ruppert averaged iterates of the linear stochastic approximation (LSA) algorithm with decreasing step size. Our findings reveal that the fastest rate of normal approximation is achieved when setting the most aggressive step size $\alpha_{k} \asymp k^{-1/2}$. Moreover, we prove the non-asymptotic validity of the confidence intervals for parameter estimation with LSA based on multiplier bootstrap. This procedure updates the LSA estimate together with a set of randomly perturbed LSA estimates upon the arrival of subsequent observations. We illustrate our findings in the setting of temporal difference learning with linear function approximation.

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Authors:Paul Mangold, Sergey Samsonov, Safwan Labbi, Ilya Levin, Reda Alami, Alexey Naumov, Eric Moulines

Abstract:In this paper, we perform a non-asymptotic analysis of the federated linear stochastic approximation (FedLSA) algorithm. We explicitly quantify the bias introduced by local training with heterogeneous agents, and investigate the sample complexity of the algorithm. We show that the communication complexity of FedLSA scales polynomially with the desired precision $\epsilon$, which limits the benefits of federation. To overcome this, we propose SCAFFLSA, a novel variant of FedLSA, that uses control variates to correct the bias of local training, and prove its convergence without assumptions on statistical heterogeneity. We apply the proposed methodology to federated temporal difference learning with linear function approximation, and analyze the corresponding complexity improvements.

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Abstract:In this paper we consider the problem of obtaining sharp bounds for the performance of temporal difference (TD) methods with linear functional approximation for policy evaluation in discounted Markov Decision Processes. We show that a simple algorithm with a universal and instance-independent step size together with Polyak-Ruppert tail averaging is sufficient to obtain near-optimal variance and bias terms. We also provide the respective sample complexity bounds. Our proof technique is based on refined error bounds for linear stochastic approximation together with the novel stability result for the product of random matrices that arise from the TD-type recurrence.

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Authors:Aleksandr Beznosikov, Sergey Samsonov, Marina Sheshukova, Alexander Gasnikov, Alexey Naumov, Eric Moulines

Abstract:This paper delves into stochastic optimization problems that involve Markovian noise. We present a unified approach for the theoretical analysis of first-order gradient methods for stochastic optimization and variational inequalities. Our approach covers scenarios for both non-convex and strongly convex minimization problems. To achieve an optimal (linear) dependence on the mixing time of the underlying noise sequence, we use the randomized batching scheme, which is based on the multilevel Monte Carlo method. Moreover, our technique allows us to eliminate the limiting assumptions of previous research on Markov noise, such as the need for a bounded domain and uniformly bounded stochastic gradients. Our extension to variational inequalities under Markovian noise is original. Additionally, we provide lower bounds that match the oracle complexity of our method in the case of strongly convex optimization problems.

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Abstract:In this paper, we propose a variance reduction approach for Markov chains based on additive control variates and the minimization of an appropriate estimate for the asymptotic variance. We focus on the particular case when control variates are represented as deep neural networks. We derive the optimal convergence rate of the asymptotic variance under various ergodicity assumptions on the underlying Markov chain. The proposed approach relies upon recent results on the stochastic errors of variance reduction algorithms and function approximation theory.

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Abstract:In this paper, we establish novel deviation bounds for additive functionals of geometrically ergodic Markov chains similar to Rosenthal and Bernstein-type inequalities for sums of independent random variables. We pay special attention to the dependence of our bounds on the mixing time of the corresponding chain. Our proof technique is, as far as we know, new and based on the recurrent application of the Poisson decomposition. We relate the constants appearing in our moment bounds to the constants from the martingale version of the Rosenthal inequality and show an explicit dependence on the parameters of the underlying Markov kernel.

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Abstract:Importance Sampling (IS) is a method for approximating expectations under a target distribution using independent samples from a proposal distribution and the associated importance weights. In many applications, the target distribution is known only up to a normalization constant, in which case self-normalized IS (SNIS) can be used. While the use of self-normalization can have a positive effect on the dispersion of the estimator, it introduces bias. In this work, we propose a new method, BR-SNIS, whose complexity is essentially the same as that of SNIS and which significantly reduces bias without increasing the variance. This method is a wrapper in the sense that it uses the same proposal samples and importance weights as SNIS, but makes clever use of iterated sampling--importance resampling (ISIR) to form a bias-reduced version of the estimator. We furnish the proposed algorithm with rigorous theoretical results, including new bias, variance and high-probability bounds, and these are illustrated by numerical examples.

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Abstract:This paper provides a finite-time analysis of linear stochastic approximation (LSA) algorithms with fixed step size, a core method in statistics and machine learning. LSA is used to compute approximate solutions of a $d$-dimensional linear system $\bar{\mathbf{A}} \theta = \bar{\mathbf{b}}$, for which $(\bar{\mathbf{A}}, \bar{\mathbf{b}})$ can only be estimated through (asymptotically) unbiased observations $\{(\mathbf{A}(Z_n),\mathbf{b}(Z_n))\}_{n \in \mathbb{N}}$. We consider here the case where $\{Z_n\}_{n \in \mathbb{N}}$ is an i.i.d. sequence or a uniformly geometrically ergodic Markov chain, and derive $p$-moments inequality and high probability bounds for the iterates defined by LSA and its Polyak-Ruppert averaged version. More precisely, we establish bounds of order $(p \alpha t_{\operatorname{mix}})^{1/2}d^{1/p}$ on the $p$-th moment of the last iterate of LSA. In this formula $\alpha$ is the step size of the procedure and $t_{\operatorname{mix}}$ is the mixing time of the underlying chain ($t_{\operatorname{mix}}=1$ in the i.i.d. setting). We then prove finite-time instance-dependent bounds on the Polyak-Ruppert averaged sequence of iterates. These results are sharp in the sense that the leading term we obtain matches the local asymptotic minimax limit, including tight dependence on the parameters $(d,t_{\operatorname{mix}})$ in the higher order terms.

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Authors:Daniil Tiapkin, Denis Belomestny, Eric Moulines, Alexey Naumov, Sergey Samsonov, Yunhao Tang, Michal Valko, Pierre Menard

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Abstract:We propose the Bayes-UCBVI algorithm for reinforcement learning in tabular, stage-dependent, episodic Markov decision process: a natural extension of the Bayes-UCB algorithm by Kaufmann et al. (2012) for multi-armed bandits. Our method uses the quantile of a Q-value function posterior as upper confidence bound on the optimal Q-value function. For Bayes-UCBVI, we prove a regret bound of order $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{H^3SAT})$ where $H$ is the length of one episode, $S$ is the number of states, $A$ the number of actions, $T$ the number of episodes, that matches the lower-bound of $\Omega(\sqrt{H^3SAT})$ up to poly-$\log$ terms in $H,S,A,T$ for a large enough $T$. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first algorithm that obtains an optimal dependence on the horizon $H$ (and $S$) without the need for an involved Bernstein-like bonus or noise. Crucial to our analysis is a new fine-grained anti-concentration bound for a weighted Dirichlet sum that can be of independent interest. We then explain how Bayes-UCBVI can be easily extended beyond the tabular setting, exhibiting a strong link between our algorithm and Bayesian bootstrap (Rubin, 1981).

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