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Poster
A Provably Efficient Sample Collection Strategy for Reinforcement Learning
Jean Tarbouriech · Matteo Pirotta · Michal Valko · Alessandro Lazaric

Thu Dec 09 12:30 AM -- 02:00 AM (PST) @ None #None
One of the challenges in online reinforcement learning (RL) is that the agent needs to trade off the exploration of the environment and the exploitation of the samples to optimize its behavior. Whether we optimize for regret, sample complexity, state-space coverage or model estimation, we need to strike a different exploration-exploitation trade-off. In this paper, we propose to tackle the exploration-exploitation problem following a decoupled approach composed of: 1) An "objective-specific" algorithm that (adaptively) prescribes how many samples to collect at which states, as if it has access to a generative model (i.e., a simulator of the environment); 2) An "objective-agnostic" sample collection exploration strategy responsible for generating the prescribed samples as fast as possible. Building on recent methods for exploration in the stochastic shortest path problem, we first provide an algorithm that, given as input the number of samples $b(s,a)$ needed in each state-action pair, requires $\widetilde{O}(B D + D^{3/2} S^2 A)$ time steps to collect the $B=\sum_{s,a} b(s,a)$ desired samples, in any unknown communicating MDP with $S$ states, $A$ actions and diameter $D$. Then we show how this general-purpose exploration algorithm can be paired with "objective-specific" strategies that prescribe the sample requirements to tackle a variety of settings — e.g., model estimation, sparse reward discovery, goal-free cost-free exploration in communicating MDPs — for which we obtain improved or novel sample complexity guarantees.

Author Information

Jean Tarbouriech (Facebook AI Research & Inria)
Matteo Pirotta (Facebook AI Research)
Michal Valko (DeepMind Paris / Inria / ENS Paris-Saclay)

Michal is a research scientist in DeepMind Paris and SequeL team at Inria Lille - Nord Europe, France, lead by Philippe Preux and Rémi Munos. He also teaches the course Graphs in Machine Learning at l'ENS Cachan. Michal is primarily interested in designing algorithms that would require as little human supervision as possible. This means 1) reducing the “intelligence” that humans need to input into the system and 2) minimising the data that humans need spend inspecting, classifying, or “tuning” the algorithms. Another important feature of machine learning algorithms should be the ability to adapt to changing environments. That is why he is working in domains that are able to deal with minimal feedback, such as semi-supervised learning, bandit algorithms, and anomaly detection. The common thread of Michal's work has been adaptive graph-based learning and its application to the real world applications such as recommender systems, medical error detection, and face recognition. His industrial collaborators include Intel, Technicolor, and Microsoft Research. He received his PhD in 2011 from University of Pittsburgh under the supervision of Miloš Hauskrecht and after was a postdoc of Rémi Munos.

Alessandro Lazaric (INRIA)

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