While in general trading off exploration and exploitation in reinforcement learning is hard, under some formulations relatively simple solutions exist. In this paper, we first derive upper bounds for the utility of selecting different actions in the multi-armed bandit setting. Unlike the common statistical upper confidence bounds, these explicitly link the planning horizon, uncertainty and the need for exploration explicit. The resulting algorithm can be seen as a generalisation of the classical Thompson sampling algorithm. We experimentally test these algorithms, as well as $\epsilon$-greedy and the value of perfect information heuristics. Finally, we also introduce the idea of bagging for reinforcement learning. By employing a version of online bootstrapping, we can efficiently sample from an approximate posterior distribution.

Amani, Sanae, Alizadeh, Mahnoosh, Thrampoulidis, Christos

Bandit algorithms have various application in safety-critical systems, where it is important to respect the system constraints that rely on the bandit's unknown parameters at every round. In this paper, we formulate a linear stochastic multi-armed bandit problem with safety constraints that depend (linearly) on an unknown parameter vector. As such, the learner is unable to identify all safe actions and must act conservatively in ensuring that her actions satisfy the safety constraint at all rounds (at least with high probability). For these bandits, we propose a new UCB-based algorithm called Safe-LUCB, which includes necessary modifications to respect safety constraints. The algorithm has two phases. During the pure exploration phase the learner chooses her actions at random from a restricted set of safe actions with the goal of learning a good approximation of the entire unknown safe set. Once this goal is achieved, the algorithm begins a safe exploration-exploitation phase where the learner gradually expands their estimate of the set of safe actions while controlling the growth of regret. We provide a general regret bound for the algorithm, as well as a problem dependent bound that is connected to the location of the optimal action within the safe set. We then propose a modified heuristic that exploits our problem dependent analysis to improve the regret.

Wu, Huasen, Guo, Xueying, Liu, Xin

In this paper, we propose and study opportunistic bandits - a new variant of bandits where the regret of pulling a suboptimal arm varies under different environmental conditions, such as network load or produce price. When the load/price is low, so is the cost/regret of pulling a suboptimal arm (e.g., trying a suboptimal network configuration). Therefore, intuitively, we could explore more when the load is low and exploit more when the load is high. Inspired by this intuition, we propose an Adaptive Upper-Confidence-Bound (AdaUCB) algorithm to adaptively balance the exploration-exploitation tradeoff for opportunistic bandits. We prove that AdaUCB achieves $O(\log T)$ regret with a smaller coefficient than the traditional UCB algorithm. Furthermore, AdaUCB achieves $O(1)$ regret when the exploration cost is zero if the load level is below a certain threshold. Last, based on both synthetic data and real-world traces, experimental results show that AdaUCB significantly outperforms other bandit algorithms, such as UCB and TS (Thompson Sampling), under large load fluctuations.

Two paradigms of this process are pure exploration and heuristic-driven exploitation: the former approaches explore the state space using only knowledge of the physically visited portion of the domain, whereas the latter approaches totally rely on heuristic knowledge to guide the search towards goal states.

If you poled a group of data scientist just a few years back about how many machine learning problem types there are you would almost certainly have gotten a binary response: problem types were clearly divided into supervised and unsupervised. Supervised: You've got labeled data (clearly defined examples). Unsupervised: You've got data but it's not labeled. See if there's a structure in there. Supervised: You've got labeled data (clearly defined examples).