Collaborating Authors

Adversarial Bandits with Knapsacks Machine Learning

We consider Bandits with Knapsacks (henceforth, BwK), a general model for multi-armed bandits under supply/budget constraints. In particular, a bandit algorithm needs to solve a well-known knapsack problem: find an optimal packing of items into a limited-size knapsack. The BwK problem is a common generalization of numerous motivating examples, which range from dynamic pricing to repeated auctions to dynamic ad allocation to network routing and scheduling. While the prior work on BwK focused on the stochastic version, we pioneer the other extreme in which the outcomes can be chosen adversarially. This is a considerably harder problem, compared to both the stochastic version and the "classic" adversarial bandits, in that regret minimization is no longer feasible. Instead, the objective is to minimize the competitive ratio: the ratio of the benchmark reward to the algorithm's reward. We design an algorithm with competitive ratio O(log T) relative to the best fixed distribution over actions, where T is the time horizon; we also prove a matching lower bound. The key conceptual contribution is a new perspective on the stochastic version of the problem. We suggest a new algorithm for the stochastic version, which builds on the framework of regret minimization in repeated games and admits a substantially simpler analysis compared to prior work. We then analyze this algorithm for the adversarial version and use it as a subroutine to solve the latter.

Advances in Bandits with Knapsacks Machine Learning

We study multi-armed bandit problems with supply or budget c onstraints. Multi-armed bandits is a simple model for exploration-exploitation tradeoff, i.e., the tension between acquiring new information and making optimal decisions. It is an active re search area, spanning computer science, operations research, and economics. Supply/budget constr aints arise in many realistic applications, e.g., a seller who dynamically adjusts the prices may have a limite d inventory, and an algorithm that optimizes ad placement is constrained by the advertise rs' budgets. Other motivating examples concern repeated actions, crowdsourcing markets, and netw ork routing and scheduling. We consider a general model called Bandits with Knapsacks (BwK), which subsumes the examples mentioned above.

Adaptive Contract Design for Crowdsourcing Markets: Bandit Algorithms for Repeated Principal-Agent Problems

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Crowdsourcing markets have emerged as a popular platform for matching available workers with tasks to complete. The payment for a particular task is typically set by the task's requester, and may be adjusted based on the quality of the completed work, for example, through the use of "bonus" payments. In this paper, we study the requester's problem of dynamically adjusting quality-contingent payments for tasks. We consider a multi-round version of the well-known principal-agent model, whereby in each round a worker makes a strategic choice of the effort level which is not directly observable by the requester. In particular, our formulation significantly generalizes the budget-free online task pricing problems studied in prior work. We treat this problem as a multi-armed bandit problem, with each "arm" representing a potential contract. To cope with the large (and in fact, infinite) number of arms, we propose a new algorithm, AgnosticZooming, which discretizes the contract space into a finite number of regions, effectively treating each region as a single arm. This discretization is adaptively refined, so that more promising regions of the contract space are eventually discretized more finely. We analyze this algorithm, showing that it achieves regret sublinear in the time horizon and substantially improves over non-adaptive discretization (which is the only competing approach in the literature). Our results advance the state of art on several different topics: the theory of crowdsourcing markets, principal-agent problems, multi-armed bandits, and dynamic pricing.

From Bandits to Experts: On the Value of Side-Observations

Neural Information Processing Systems

We consider an adversarial online learning setting where a decision maker can choose an action in every stage of the game. In addition to observing the reward of the chosen action, the decision maker gets side observations on the reward he would have obtained had he chosen some of the other actions. The observation structure is encoded as a graph, where node i is linked to node j if sampling i provides information on the reward of j. This setting naturally interpolates between the well-known ``experts'' setting, where the decision maker can view all rewards, and the multi-armed bandits setting, where the decision maker can only view the reward of the chosen action. We develop practical algorithms with provable regret guarantees, which depend on non-trivial graph-theoretic properties of the information feedback structure. We also provide partially-matching lower bounds.

Bandits with adversarial scaling Machine Learning

We study "adversarial scaling", a multi-armed bandit model where rewards have a stochastic and an adversarial component. Our model captures display advertising where the "click-through-rate" can be decomposed to a (fixed across time) arm-quality component and a non-stochastic user-relevance component (fixed across arms). Despite the relative stochasticity of our model, we demonstrate two settings where most bandit algorithms suffer. On the positive side, we show that two algorithms, one from the action elimination and one from the mirror descent family are adaptive enough to be robust to adversarial scaling. Our results shed light on the robustness of adaptive parameter selection in stochastic bandits, which may be of independent interest.