Mortal Multi-Armed Bandits

Neural Information Processing Systems

We formulate and study a new variant of the $k$-armed bandit problem, motivated by e-commerce applications. In our model, arms have (stochastic) lifetime after which they expire. In this setting an algorithm needs to continuously explore new arms, in contrast to the standard $k$-armed bandit model in which arms are available indefinitely and exploration is reduced once an optimal arm is identified with near-certainty. The main motivation for our setting is online-advertising, where ads have limited lifetime due to, for example, the nature of their content and their campaign budget. An algorithm needs to choose among a large collection of ads, more than can be fully explored within the ads' lifetime. We present an optimal algorithm for the state-aware (deterministic reward function) case, and build on this technique to obtain an algorithm for the state-oblivious (stochastic reward function) case. Empirical studies on various reward distributions, including one derived from a real-world ad serving application, show that the proposed algorithms significantly outperform the standard multi-armed bandit approaches applied to these settings.


Bounded regret in stochastic multi-armed bandits

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We study the stochastic multi-armed bandit problem when one knows the value $\mu^{(\star)}$ of an optimal arm, as a well as a positive lower bound on the smallest positive gap $\Delta$. We propose a new randomized policy that attains a regret {\em uniformly bounded over time} in this setting. We also prove several lower bounds, which show in particular that bounded regret is not possible if one only knows $\Delta$, and bounded regret of order $1/\Delta$ is not possible if one only knows $\mu^{(\star)}$


Simple Algorithms for Dueling Bandits

arXiv.org Machine Learning

In this paper, we present simple algorithms for Dueling Bandits. We prove that the algorithms have regret bounds for time horizon T of order O(T^rho ) with 1/2 <= rho <= 3/4, which importantly do not depend on any preference gap between actions, Delta. Dueling Bandits is an important extension of the Multi-Armed Bandit problem, in which the algorithm must select two actions at a time and only receives binary feedback for the duel outcome. This is analogous to comparisons in which the rater can only provide yes/no or better/worse type responses. We compare our simple algorithms to the current state-of-the-art for Dueling Bandits, ISS and DTS, discussing complexity and regret upper bounds, and conducting experiments on synthetic data that demonstrate their regret performance, which in some cases exceeds state-of-the-art.


Nearly Tight Bounds for the Continuum-Armed Bandit Problem

Neural Information Processing Systems

In the multi-armed bandit problem, an online algorithm must choose from a set of strategies in a sequence of n trials so as to minimize the total cost of the chosen strategies. While nearly tight upper and lower bounds are known in the case when the strategy set is finite, much less is known when there is an infinite strategy set.


Deep Contextual Multi-armed Bandits

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Contextual multi-armed bandit problems arise frequently in important industrial applications. Existing solutions model the context either linearly, which enables uncertainty driven (principled) exploration, or non-linearly, by using epsilon-greedy exploration policies. Here we present a deep learning framework for contextual multi-armed bandits that is both non-linear and enables principled exploration at the same time. We tackle the exploration vs. exploitation trade-off through Thompson sampling by exploiting the connection between inference time dropout and sampling from the posterior over the weights of a Bayesian neural network. In order to adjust the level of exploration automatically as more data is made available to the model, the dropout rate is learned rather than considered a hyperparameter. We demonstrate that our approach substantially reduces regret on two tasks (the UCI Mushroom task and the Casino Parity task) when compared to 1) non-contextual bandits, 2) epsilon-greedy deep contextual bandits, and 3) fixed dropout rate deep contextual bandits. Our approach is currently being applied to marketing optimization problems at HubSpot.