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Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University

Authors:Jeremy Carleton, Prathik Vijaykumar, Divyanshu Saxena, Dheeraj Narasimha, Srinivas Shakkottai, Aditya Akella

Abstract:We address the challenge of online convex optimization where the objective function's gradient exhibits sparsity, indicating that only a small number of dimensions possess non-zero gradients. Our aim is to leverage this sparsity to obtain useful estimates of the objective function's gradient even when the only information available is a limited number of function samples. Our motivation stems from distributed queueing systems like microservices-based applications, characterized by request-response workloads. Here, each request type proceeds through a sequence of microservices to produce a response, and the resource allocation across the collection of microservices is controlled to balance end-to-end latency with resource costs. While the number of microservices is substantial, the latency function primarily reacts to resource changes in a few, rendering the gradient sparse. Our proposed method, CONGO (Compressive Online Gradient Optimization), combines simultaneous perturbation with compressive sensing to estimate gradients. We establish analytical bounds on the requisite number of compressive sensing samples per iteration to maintain bounded bias of gradient estimates, ensuring sub-linear regret. By exploiting sparsity, we reduce the samples required per iteration to match the gradient's sparsity, rather than the problem's original dimensionality. Numerical experiments and real-world microservices benchmarks demonstrate CONGO's superiority over multiple stochastic gradient descent approaches, as it quickly converges to performance comparable to policies pre-trained with workload awareness.

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Authors:Archana Bura, Sarat Chandra Bobbili, Shreyas Rameshkumar, Desik Rengarajan, Dileep Kalathil, Srinivas Shakkottai

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Abstract:Media streaming is the dominant application over wireless edge (access) networks. The increasing softwarization of such networks has led to efforts at intelligent control, wherein application-specific actions may be dynamically taken to enhance the user experience. The goal of this work is to develop and demonstrate learning-based policies for optimal decision making to determine which clients to dynamically prioritize in a video streaming setting. We formulate the policy design question as a constrained Markov decision problem (CMDP), and observe that by using a Lagrangian relaxation we can decompose it into single-client problems. Further, the optimal policy takes a threshold form in the video buffer length, which enables us to design an efficient constrained reinforcement learning (CRL) algorithm to learn it. Specifically, we show that a natural policy gradient (NPG) based algorithm that is derived using the structure of our problem converges to the globally optimal policy. We then develop a simulation environment for training, and a real-world intelligent controller attached to a WiFi access point for evaluation. We empirically show that the structured learning approach enables fast learning. Furthermore, such a structured policy can be easily deployed due to low computational complexity, leading to policy execution taking only about 15$\mu$s. Using YouTube streaming experiments in a resource constrained scenario, we demonstrate that the CRL approach can increase QoE by over 30%.

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Authors:Vicram Rajagopalan, Vishnu Teja Kunde, Chandra Shekhara Kaushik Valmeekam, Krishna Narayanan, Srinivas Shakkottai, Dileep Kalathil, Jean-Francois Chamberland

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Abstract:Pre-trained transformers can perform in-context learning, where they adapt to a new task using only a small number of prompts without any explicit model optimization. Inspired by this attribute, we propose a novel approach, called in-context estimation, for the canonical communication problem of estimating transmitted symbols from received symbols. A communication channel is essentially a noisy function that maps transmitted symbols to received symbols, and this function can be represented by an unknown parameter whose statistics depend on an (also unknown) latent context. Conventional approaches ignore this hierarchical structure and simply attempt to use known transmissions, called pilots, to perform a least-squares estimate of the channel parameter, which is then used to estimate successive, unknown transmitted symbols. We make the basic connection that transformers show excellent contextual sequence completion with a few prompts, and so they should be able to implicitly determine the latent context from pilot symbols to perform end-to-end in-context estimation of transmitted symbols. Furthermore, the transformer should use information efficiently, i.e., it should utilize any pilots received to attain the best possible symbol estimates. Through extensive simulations, we show that in-context estimation not only significantly outperforms standard approaches, but also achieves the same performance as an estimator with perfect knowledge of the latent context within a few context examples. Thus, we make a strong case that transformers are efficient in-context estimators in the communication setting.

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Authors:Chandra Shekhara Kaushik Valmeekam, Krishna Narayanan, Dileep Kalathil, Jean-Francois Chamberland, Srinivas Shakkottai

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Abstract:We provide new estimates of an asymptotic upper bound on the entropy of English using the large language model LLaMA-7B as a predictor for the next token given a window of past tokens. This estimate is significantly smaller than currently available estimates in \cite{cover1978convergent}, \cite{lutati2023focus}. A natural byproduct is an algorithm for lossless compression of English text which combines the prediction from the large language model with a lossless compression scheme. Preliminary results from limited experiments suggest that our scheme outperforms state-of-the-art text compression schemes such as BSC, ZPAQ, and paq8h.

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Abstract:We consider the problem of federated offline reinforcement learning (RL), a scenario under which distributed learning agents must collaboratively learn a high-quality control policy only using small pre-collected datasets generated according to different unknown behavior policies. Naively combining a standard offline RL approach with a standard federated learning approach to solve this problem can lead to poorly performing policies. In response, we develop the Federated Ensemble-Directed Offline Reinforcement Learning Algorithm (FEDORA), which distills the collective wisdom of the clients using an ensemble learning approach. We develop the FEDORA codebase to utilize distributed compute resources on a federated learning platform. We show that FEDORA significantly outperforms other approaches, including offline RL over the combined data pool, in various complex continuous control environments and real world datasets. Finally, we demonstrate the performance of FEDORA in the real-world on a mobile robot.

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Authors:Le Xie, Tong Huang, Xiangtian Zheng, Yan Liu, Mengdi Wang, Vijay Vittal, P. R. Kumar, Srinivas Shakkottai, Yi Cui

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Abstract:The transition towards carbon-neutral electricity is one of the biggest game changers in addressing climate change since it addresses the dual challenges of removing carbon emissions from the two largest sectors of emitters: electricity and transportation. The transition to a carbon-neutral electric grid poses significant challenges to conventional paradigms of modern grid planning and operation. Much of the challenge arises from the scale of the decision making and the uncertainty associated with the energy supply and demand. Artificial Intelligence (AI) could potentially have a transformative impact on accelerating the speed and scale of carbon-neutral transition, as many decision making processes in the power grid can be cast as classic, though challenging, machine learning tasks. We point out that to amplify AI's impact on carbon-neutral transition of the electric energy systems, the AI algorithms originally developed for other applications should be tailored in three layers of technology, markets, and policy.

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Abstract:Meta reinforcement learning (Meta-RL) is an approach wherein the experience gained from solving a variety of tasks is distilled into a meta-policy. The meta-policy, when adapted over only a small (or just a single) number of steps, is able to perform near-optimally on a new, related task. However, a major challenge to adopting this approach to solve real-world problems is that they are often associated with sparse reward functions that only indicate whether a task is completed partially or fully. We consider the situation where some data, possibly generated by a sub-optimal agent, is available for each task. We then develop a class of algorithms entitled Enhanced Meta-RL using Demonstrations (EMRLD) that exploit this information even if sub-optimal to obtain guidance during training. We show how EMRLD jointly utilizes RL and supervised learning over the offline data to generate a meta-policy that demonstrates monotone performance improvements. We also develop a warm started variant called EMRLD-WS that is particularly efficient for sub-optimal demonstration data. Finally, we show that our EMRLD algorithms significantly outperform existing approaches in a variety of sparse reward environments, including that of a mobile robot.

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Abstract:This paper presents OpenGridGym, an open-source Python-based package that allows for seamless integration of distribution market simulation with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) decision-making algorithms. We present the architecture and design choice for the proposed framework, elaborate on how users interact with OpenGridGym, and highlight its value by providing multiple cases to demonstrate its use. Four modules are used in any simulation: (1) the physical grid, (2) market mechanisms, (3) a set of trainable agents which interact with the former two modules, and (4) environment module that connects and coordinates the above three. We provide templates for each of those four, but they are easily interchangeable with custom alternatives. Several case studies are presented to illustrate the capability and potential of this toolkit in helping researchers address key design and operational questions in distribution electricity markets.

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Abstract:A major challenge in real-world reinforcement learning (RL) is the sparsity of reward feedback. Often, what is available is an intuitive but sparse reward function that only indicates whether the task is completed partially or fully. However, the lack of carefully designed, fine grain feedback implies that most existing RL algorithms fail to learn an acceptable policy in a reasonable time frame. This is because of the large number of exploration actions that the policy has to perform before it gets any useful feedback that it can learn from. In this work, we address this challenging problem by developing an algorithm that exploits the offline demonstration data generated by a sub-optimal behavior policy for faster and efficient online RL in such sparse reward settings. The proposed algorithm, which we call the Learning Online with Guidance Offline (LOGO) algorithm, merges a policy improvement step with an additional policy guidance step by using the offline demonstration data. The key idea is that by obtaining guidance from - not imitating - the offline data, LOGO orients its policy in the manner of the sub-optimal policy, while yet being able to learn beyond and approach optimality. We provide a theoretical analysis of our algorithm, and provide a lower bound on the performance improvement in each learning episode. We also extend our algorithm to the even more challenging incomplete observation setting, where the demonstration data contains only a censored version of the true state observation. We demonstrate the superior performance of our algorithm over state-of-the-art approaches on a number of benchmark environments with sparse rewards and censored state. Further, we demonstrate the value of our approach via implementing LOGO on a mobile robot for trajectory tracking and obstacle avoidance, where it shows excellent performance.

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Authors:Archana Bura, Aria HasanzadeZonuzy, Dileep Kalathil, Srinivas Shakkottai, Jean-Francois Chamberland

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Abstract:We consider the problem of learning an episodic safe control policy that minimizes an objective function, while satisfying necessary safety constraints -- both during learning and deployment. We formulate this safety constrained reinforcement learning (RL) problem using the framework of a finite-horizon Constrained Markov Decision Process (CMDP) with an unknown transition probability function. Here, we model the safety requirements as constraints on the expected cumulative costs that must be satisfied during all episodes of learning. We propose a model-based safe RL algorithm that we call the Optimistic-Pessimistic Safe Reinforcement Learning (OPSRL) algorithm, and show that it achieves an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(S^{2}\sqrt{A H^{7}K}/ (\bar{C} - \bar{C}_{b}))$ cumulative regret without violating the safety constraints during learning, where $S$ is the number of states, $A$ is the number of actions, $H$ is the horizon length, $K$ is the number of learning episodes, and $(\bar{C} - \bar{C}_{b})$ is the safety gap, i.e., the difference between the constraint value and the cost of a known safe baseline policy. The scaling as $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{K})$ is the same as the traditional approach where constraints may be violated during learning, which means that our algorithm suffers no additional regret in spite of providing a safety guarantee. Our key idea is to use an optimistic exploration approach with pessimistic constraint enforcement for learning the policy. This approach simultaneously incentivizes the exploration of unknown states while imposing a penalty for visiting states that are likely to cause violation of safety constraints. We validate our algorithm by evaluating its performance on benchmark problems against conventional approaches.

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