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Abstract:We study contextual bandits with low-rank structure where, in each round, if the (context, arm) pair $(i,j)\in [m]\times [n]$ is selected, the learner observes a noisy sample of the $(i,j)$-th entry of an unknown low-rank reward matrix. Successive contexts are generated randomly in an i.i.d. manner and are revealed to the learner. For such bandits, we present efficient algorithms for policy evaluation, best policy identification and regret minimization. For policy evaluation and best policy identification, we show that our algorithms are nearly minimax optimal. For instance, the number of samples required to return an $\varepsilon$-optimal policy with probability at least $1-\delta$ typically scales as ${m+n\over \varepsilon^2}\log(1/\delta)$. Our regret minimization algorithm enjoys minimax guarantees scaling as $r^{7/4}(m+n)^{3/4}\sqrt{T}$, which improves over existing algorithms. All the proposed algorithms consist of two phases: they first leverage spectral methods to estimate the left and right singular subspaces of the low-rank reward matrix. We show that these estimates enjoy tight error guarantees in the two-to-infinity norm. This in turn allows us to reformulate our problems as a misspecified linear bandit problem with dimension roughly $r(m+n)$ and misspecification controlled by the subspace recovery error, as well as to design the second phase of our algorithms efficiently.

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Abstract:We study matrix estimation problems arising in reinforcement learning (RL) with low-rank structure. In low-rank bandits, the matrix to be recovered specifies the expected arm rewards, and for low-rank Markov Decision Processes (MDPs), it may for example characterize the transition kernel of the MDP. In both cases, each entry of the matrix carries important information, and we seek estimation methods with low entry-wise error. Importantly, these methods further need to accommodate for inherent correlations in the available data (e.g. for MDPs, the data consists of system trajectories). We investigate the performance of simple spectral-based matrix estimation approaches: we show that they efficiently recover the singular subspaces of the matrix and exhibit nearly-minimal entry-wise error. These new results on low-rank matrix estimation make it possible to devise reinforcement learning algorithms that fully exploit the underlying low-rank structure. We provide two examples of such algorithms: a regret minimization algorithm for low-rank bandit problems, and a best policy identification algorithm for reward-free RL in low-rank MDPs. Both algorithms yield state-of-the-art performance guarantees.

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Authors:Ingvar Ziemann, Anastasios Tsiamis, Bruce Lee, Yassir Jedra, Nikolai Matni, George J. Pappas

Abstract:This tutorial serves as an introduction to recently developed non-asymptotic methods in the theory of -- mainly linear -- system identification. We emphasize tools we deem particularly useful for a range of problems in this domain, such as the covering technique, the Hanson-Wright Inequality and the method of self-normalized martingales. We then employ these tools to give streamlined proofs of the performance of various least-squares based estimators for identifying the parameters in autoregressive models. We conclude by sketching out how the ideas presented herein can be extended to certain nonlinear identification problems.

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Abstract:We investigate the problems of model estimation and reward-free learning in episodic Block MDPs. In these MDPs, the decision maker has access to rich observations or contexts generated from a small number of latent states. We are first interested in estimating the latent state decoding function (the mapping from the observations to latent states) based on data generated under a fixed behavior policy. We derive an information-theoretical lower bound on the error rate for estimating this function and present an algorithm approaching this fundamental limit. In turn, our algorithm also provides estimates of all the components of the MDP. We then study the problem of learning near-optimal policies in the reward-free framework. Based on our efficient model estimation algorithm, we show that we can infer a policy converging (as the number of collected samples grows large) to the optimal policy at the best possible rate. Interestingly, our analysis provides necessary and sufficient conditions under which exploiting the block structure yields improvements in the sample complexity for identifying near-optimal policies. When these conditions are met, the sample complexity in the minimax reward-free setting is improved by a multiplicative factor $n$, where $n$ is the number of possible contexts.

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Abstract:We investigate the problem of best policy identification in discounted linear Markov Decision Processes in the fixed confidence setting under a generative model. We first derive an instance-specific lower bound on the expected number of samples required to identify an $\varepsilon$-optimal policy with probability $1-\delta$. The lower bound characterizes the optimal sampling rule as the solution of an intricate non-convex optimization program, but can be used as the starting point to devise simple and near-optimal sampling rules and algorithms. We devise such algorithms. One of these exhibits a sample complexity upper bounded by ${\cal O}({\frac{d}{(\varepsilon+\Delta)^2}} (\log(\frac{1}{\delta})+d))$ where $\Delta$ denotes the minimum reward gap of sub-optimal actions and $d$ is the dimension of the feature space. This upper bound holds in the moderate-confidence regime (i.e., for all $\delta$), and matches existing minimax and gap-dependent lower bounds. We extend our algorithm to episodic linear MDPs.

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Abstract:Controlling antenna tilts in cellular networks is imperative to reach an efficient trade-off between network coverage and capacity. In this paper, we devise algorithms learning optimal tilt control policies from existing data (in the so-called passive learning setting) or from data actively generated by the algorithms (the active learning setting). We formalize the design of such algorithms as a Best Policy Identification (BPI) problem in Contextual Linear Multi-Arm Bandits (CL-MAB). An arm represents an antenna tilt update; the context captures current network conditions; the reward corresponds to an improvement of performance, mixing coverage and capacity; and the objective is to identify, with a given level of confidence, an approximately optimal policy (a function mapping the context to an arm with maximal reward). For CL-MAB in both active and passive learning settings, we derive information-theoretical lower bounds on the number of samples required by any algorithm returning an approximately optimal policy with a given level of certainty, and devise algorithms achieving these fundamental limits. We apply our algorithms to the Remote Electrical Tilt (RET) optimization problem in cellular networks, and show that they can produce optimal tilt update policy using much fewer data samples than naive or existing rule-based learning algorithms.

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Abstract:We consider the problem of online learning in Linear Quadratic Control systems whose state transition and state-action transition matrices $A$ and $B$ may be initially unknown. We devise an online learning algorithm and provide guarantees on its expected regret. This regret at time $T$ is upper bounded (i) by $\widetilde{O}((d_u+d_x)\sqrt{d_xT})$ when $A$ and $B$ are unknown, (ii) by $\widetilde{O}(d_x^2\log(T))$ if only $A$ is unknown, and (iii) by $\widetilde{O}(d_x(d_u+d_x)\log(T))$ if only $B$ is unknown and under some mild non-degeneracy condition ($d_x$ and $d_u$ denote the dimensions of the state and of the control input, respectively). These regret scalings are minimal in $T$, $d_x$ and $d_u$ as they match existing lower bounds in scenario (i) when $d_x\le d_u$ [SF20], and in scenario (ii) [lai1986]. We conjecture that our upper bounds are also optimal in scenario (iii) (there is no known lower bound in this setting). Existing online algorithms proceed in epochs of (typically exponentially) growing durations. The control policy is fixed within each epoch, which considerably simplifies the analysis of the estimation error on $A$ and $B$ and hence of the regret. Our algorithm departs from this design choice: it is a simple variant of certainty-equivalence regulators, where the estimates of $A$ and $B$ and the resulting control policy can be updated as frequently as we wish, possibly at every step. Quantifying the impact of such a constantly-varying control policy on the performance of these estimates and on the regret constitutes one of the technical challenges tackled in this paper.

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Abstract:We study the problem of best-arm identification with fixed confidence in stochastic linear bandits. The objective is to identify the best arm with a given level of certainty while minimizing the sampling budget. We devise a simple algorithm whose sampling complexity matches known instance-specific lower bounds, asymptotically almost surely and in expectation. The algorithm relies on an arm sampling rule that tracks an optimal proportion of arm draws, and that remarkably can be updated as rarely as we wish, without compromising its theoretical guarantees. Moreover, unlike existing best-arm identification strategies, our algorithm uses a stopping rule that does not depend on the number of arms. Experimental results suggest that our algorithm significantly outperforms existing algorithms. The paper further provides a first analysis of the best-arm identification problem in linear bandits with a continuous set of arms.

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Abstract:We present a new finite-time analysis of the estimation error of the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) estimator for stable linear time-invariant systems. We characterize the number of observed samples (the length of the observed trajectory) sufficient for the OLS estimator to be $(\varepsilon,\delta)$-PAC, i.e., to yield an estimation error less than $\varepsilon$ with probability at least $1-\delta$. We show that this number matches existing sample complexity lower bounds [1,2] up to universal multiplicative factors (independent of ($\varepsilon,\delta)$ and of the system). This paper hence establishes the optimality of the OLS estimator for stable systems, a result conjectured in [1]. Our analysis of the performance of the OLS estimator is simpler, sharper, and easier to interpret than existing analyses. It relies on new concentration results for the covariates matrix.

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Abstract:This paper establishes problem-specific sample complexity lower bounds for linear system identification problems. The sample complexity is defined in the PAC framework: it corresponds to the time it takes to identify the system parameters with prescribed accuracy and confidence levels. By problem-specific, we mean that the lower bound explicitly depends on the system to be identified (which contrasts with minimax lower bounds), and hence really captures the identification hardness specific to the system. We consider both uncontrolled and controlled systems. For uncontrolled systems, the lower bounds are valid for any linear system, stable or not, and only depend of the system finite-time controllability gramian. A simplified lower bound depending on the spectrum of the system only is also derived. In view of recent finitetime analysis of classical estimation methods (e.g. ordinary least squares), our sample complexity lower bounds are tight for many systems. For controlled systems, our lower bounds are not as explicit as in the case of uncontrolled systems, but could well provide interesting insights into the design of control policy with minimal sample complexity.

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