He, Jiafan, Zhou, Dongruo, Gu, Quanquan

Designing efficient algorithms that learn and plan in sequential decision-making tasks with large state and action spaces has become a central task of modern reinforcement learning (RL) in recent years. RL often assumes the environment as a Markov Decision Process (MDP), described by a tuple of state space, action space, reward function, and transition probability function. Due to a large number of possible states and actions, traditional tabular reinforcement learning methods such as Q-learning (Watkins, 1989), which directly access each state-action pair, are computationally intractable. A common approach to cope with high-dimensional state and action spaces is to utilize feature mappings such as linear functions or neural networks to map states and actions to a low-dimensional space. Recently, a large body of literature has been devoted to provide regret bounds for online RL with linear function approximation. These works can be divided into two main categories. The first category of works is of model-free style, which directly parameterizes the action-value function as a linear function of some given feature mapping. For instance, Jin et al. (2020) studied the episodic MDPs with linear MDP assumption, which assumes that both transition probability function and reward function can be represented as a linear function of a given feature mapping.

Cohen, Alon, Kaplan, Haim, Mansour, Yishay, Rosenberg, Aviv

Stochastic shortest path (SSP) is a well-known problem in planning and control, in which an agent has to reach a goal state in minimum total expected cost. In the learning formulation of the problem, the agent is unaware of the environment dynamics (i.e., the transition function) and has to repeatedly play for a given number of episodes while reasoning about the problem's optimal solution. Unlike other well-studied models in reinforcement learning (RL), the length of an episode is not predetermined (or bounded) and is influenced by the agent's actions. Recently, Tarbouriech et al. (2019) studied this problem in the context of regret minimization and provided an algorithm whose regret bound is inversely proportional to the square root of the minimum instantaneous cost. In this work we remove this dependence on the minimum cost---we give an algorithm that guarantees a regret bound of $\widetilde{O}(B_\star |S| \sqrt{|A| K})$, where $B_\star$ is an upper bound on the expected cost of the optimal policy, $S$ is the set of states, $A$ is the set of actions and $K$ is the number of episodes. We additionally show that any learning algorithm must have at least $\Omega(B_\star \sqrt{|S| |A| K})$ regret in the worst case.

Zhou, Dongruo, Gu, Quanquan, Szepesvari, Csaba

We study reinforcement learning (RL) with linear function approximation where the underlying transition probability kernel of the Markov decision process (MDP) is a linear mixture model (Jia et al., 2020; Ayoub et al., 2020; Zhou et al., 2020) and the learning agent has access to either an integration or a sampling oracle of the individual basis kernels. We propose a new Bernstein-type concentration inequality for self-normalized martingales for linear bandit problems with bounded noise. Based on the new inequality, we propose a new, computationally efficient algorithm with linear function approximation named $\text{UCRL-VTR}^{+}$ for the aforementioned linear mixture MDPs in the episodic undiscounted setting. We show that $\text{UCRL-VTR}^{+}$ attains an $\tilde O(dH\sqrt{T})$ regret where $d$ is the dimension of feature mapping, $H$ is the length of the episode and $T$ is the number of interactions with the MDP. We also prove a matching lower bound $\Omega(dH\sqrt{T})$ for this setting, which shows that $\text{UCRL-VTR}^{+}$ is minimax optimal up to logarithmic factors. In addition, we propose the $\text{UCLK}^{+}$ algorithm for the same family of MDPs under discounting and show that it attains an $\tilde O(d\sqrt{T}/(1-\gamma)^{1.5})$ regret, where $\gamma\in [0,1)$ is the discount factor. Our upper bound matches the lower bound $\Omega(d\sqrt{T}/(1-\gamma)^{1.5})$ proved in Zhou et al. (2020) up to logarithmic factors, suggesting that $\text{UCLK}^{+}$ is nearly minimax optimal. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first computationally efficient, nearly minimax optimal algorithms for RL with linear function approximation.

Wu, Yue, Zhou, Dongruo, Gu, Quanquan

We study reinforcement learning in an infinite-horizon average-reward setting with linear function approximation, where the transition probability function of the underlying Markov Decision Process (MDP) admits a linear form over a feature mapping of the current state, action, and next state. We propose a new algorithm UCRL2-VTR, which can be seen as an extension of the UCRL2 algorithm with linear function approximation. We show that UCRL2-VTR with Bernstein-type bonus can achieve a regret of $\tilde{O}(d\sqrt{DT})$, where $d$ is the dimension of the feature mapping, $T$ is the horizon, and $\sqrt{D}$ is the diameter of the MDP. We also prove a matching lower bound $\tilde{\Omega}(d\sqrt{DT})$, which suggests that the proposed UCRL2-VTR is minimax optimal up to logarithmic factors. To the best of our knowledge, our algorithm is the first nearly minimax optimal RL algorithm with function approximation in the infinite-horizon average-reward setting.

We present an algorithm based on posterior sampling (aka Thompson sampling) that achieves near-optimal worst-case regret bounds when the underlying Markov Decision Process (MDP) is communicating with a finite, though unknown, diameter. Our main result is a high probability regret upper bound of $\tilde{O}(D\sqrt{SAT})$ for any communicating MDP with $S$ states, $A$ actions and diameter $D$, when $T\ge S^5A$. Here, regret compares the total reward achieved by the algorithm to the total expected reward of an optimal infinite-horizon undiscounted average reward policy, in time horizon $T$. This result improves over the best previously known upper bound of $\tilde{O}(DS\sqrt{AT})$ achieved by any algorithm in this setting, and matches the dependence on $S$ in the established lower bound of $\Omega(\sqrt{DSAT})$ for this problem. Our techniques involve proving some novel results about the anti-concentration of Dirichlet distribution, which may be of independent interest.