Bandit Learning Through Biased Maximum Likelihood Estimation

Liu, Xi, Hsieh, Ping-Chun, Bhattacharya, Anirban, Kumar, P. R.

arXiv.org Machine Learning 

We propose BMLE, a new family of bandit algorithms, that are formulated in a general way based on the Biased Maximum Likelihood Estimation method originally appearing in the adaptive control literature. We design the cost-bias term to tackle the exploration and exploitation tradeoff for stochastic bandit problems. We provide an explicit closed form expression for the index of an arm for Bernoulli bandits, which is trivial to compute. We also provide a general recipe for extending the BMLE algorithm to other families of reward distributions. We prove that for Bernoulli bandits, the BMLE algorithm achieves a logarithmic finite-time regret bound and hence attains order-optimality. Through extensive simulations, we demonstrate that the proposed algorithms achieve regret performance comparable to the best of several state-of-the-art baseline methods, while having a significant computational advantage in comparison to other best performing methods. The generality of the proposed approach makes it possible to address more complex models, including general adaptive control of Markovian systems.