Adversarial Bandits with Knapsacks

arXiv.org 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.


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.


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.


Algorithms with Logarithmic or Sublinear Regret for Constrained Contextual Bandits

Neural Information Processing Systems

We study contextual bandits with budget and time constraints under discrete contexts, referred to as constrained contextual bandits. The time and budget constraints significantly complicate the exploration and exploitation tradeoff because they introduce complex coupling among contexts over time. To gain insight, we first study unit-cost systems with known context distribution. When the expected rewards are known, we develop an approximation of the oracle, referred to Adaptive-Linear-Programming(ALP), which achieves near-optimality and only requires the ordering of expected rewards. With these highly desirable features, we then combine ALP with the upper-confidence-bound (UCB) method in the general case where the expected rewards are unknown a priori. We show that the proposed UCB-ALP algorithm achieves logarithmic regret except in certain boundary cases.Further, we design algorithms and obtain similar regret analysis results for more general systems with unknown context distribution or heterogeneous costs. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work that shows how to achieve logarithmic regret in constrained contextual bandits. Moreover, this work also sheds light on the study of computationally efficient algorithms for general constrained contextual bandits.


Contextual semibandits via supervised learning oracles

Neural Information Processing Systems

We study an online decision making problem where on each round a learner chooses a list of items based on some side information, receives a scalar feedback value for each individual item, and a reward that is linearly related to this feedback. These problems, known as contextual semibandits, arise in crowdsourcing, recommendation, and many other domains. This paper reduces contextual semibandits to supervised learning, allowing us to leverage powerful supervised learning methods in this partial-feedback setting. Our first reduction applies when the mapping from feedback to reward is known and leads to a computationally efficient algorithm with near-optimal regret. We show that this algorithm outperforms state-of-the-art approaches on real-world learning-to-rank datasets, demonstrating the advantage of oracle-based algorithms. Our second reduction applies to the previously unstudied setting when the linear mapping from feedback to reward is unknown. Our regret guarantees are superior to prior techniques that ignore the feedback.