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Near Optimal Chernoff Bounds for Markov Decision Processes
Teodor Mihai Moldovan · Pieter Abbeel

Wed Dec 05 07:00 PM -- 12:00 AM (PST) @ Harrah’s Special Events Center 2nd Floor

The expected return is a widely used objective in decision making under uncertainty. Many algorithms, such as value iteration, have been proposed to optimize it. In risk-aware settings, however, the expected return is often not an appropriate objective to optimize. We propose a new optimization objective for risk-aware planning and show that it has desirable theoretical properties. We also draw connections to previously proposed objectives for risk-aware planing: minmax, exponential utility, percentile and mean minus variance. Our method applies to an extended class of Markov decision processes: we allow costs to be stochastic as long as they are bounded. Additionally, we present an efficient algorithm for optimizing the proposed objective. Synthetic and real-world experiments illustrate the effectiveness of our method, at scale.

Author Information

Teodor Mihai Moldovan (UC Berkeley)
Pieter Abbeel (UC Berkeley & Covariant)

Pieter Abbeel is Professor and Director of the Robot Learning Lab at UC Berkeley [2008- ], Co-Director of the Berkeley AI Research (BAIR) Lab, Co-Founder of covariant.ai [2017- ], Co-Founder of Gradescope [2014- ], Advisor to OpenAI, Founding Faculty Partner AI@TheHouse venture fund, Advisor to many AI/Robotics start-ups. He works in machine learning and robotics. In particular his research focuses on making robots learn from people (apprenticeship learning), how to make robots learn through their own trial and error (reinforcement learning), and how to speed up skill acquisition through learning-to-learn (meta-learning). His robots have learned advanced helicopter aerobatics, knot-tying, basic assembly, organizing laundry, locomotion, and vision-based robotic manipulation. He has won numerous awards, including best paper awards at ICML, NIPS and ICRA, early career awards from NSF, Darpa, ONR, AFOSR, Sloan, TR35, IEEE, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Pieter's work is frequently featured in the popular press, including New York Times, BBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Wired, Forbes, Tech Review, NPR.

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