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Abstract:Sequential decision-making domains such as recommender systems, healthcare and education often have unobserved heterogeneity in the population that can be modeled using latent bandits $-$ a framework where an unobserved latent state determines the model for a trajectory. While the latent bandit framework is compelling, the extent of its generality is unclear. We first address this by establishing a de Finetti theorem for decision processes, and show that $\textit{every}$ exchangeable and coherent stateless decision process is a latent bandit. The latent bandit framework lends itself particularly well to online learning with offline datasets, a problem of growing interest in sequential decision-making. One can leverage offline latent bandit data to learn a complex model for each latent state, so that an agent can simply learn the latent state online to act optimally. We focus on a linear model for a latent bandit with $d_A$-dimensional actions, where the latent states lie in an unknown $d_K$-dimensional subspace for $d_K \ll d_A$. We present SOLD, a novel principled method to learn this subspace from short offline trajectories with guarantees. We then provide two methods to leverage this subspace online: LOCAL-UCB and ProBALL-UCB. We demonstrate that LOCAL-UCB enjoys $\tilde O(\min(d_A\sqrt{T}, d_K\sqrt{T}(1+\sqrt{d_AT/d_KN})))$ regret guarantees, where the effective dimension is lower when the size $N$ of the offline dataset is larger. ProBALL-UCB enjoys a slightly weaker guarantee, but is more practical and computationally efficient. Finally, we establish the efficacy of our methods using experiments on both synthetic data and real-life movie recommendation data from MovieLens.

* 40 pages. 14 pages for main paper, 26 pages for references + appendix