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Poster & Spotlight Talk
Workshop: Workshop on Reinforcement Learning Theory

On the Theory of Reinforcement Learning with Once-per-Episode Feedback

Niladri Chatterji · Aldo Pacchiano · Peter Bartlett · Michael Jordan


We study a theory of reinforcement learning (RL) in which the learner receives binary feedback only once at the end of an episode. While this is an extreme test case for theory, it is also arguably more representative of real-world applications than the traditional requirement in RL practice that the learner receive feedback at every time step. Indeed, in many real-world applications of reinforcement learning, such as self-driving cars and robotics, it is easier to evaluate whether a learner's complete trajectory was either "good" or "bad," but harder to provide a reward signal at each step. To show that learning is possible in this more challenging setting, we study the case where trajectory labels are generated by an unknown parametric model, and provide a statistically and computationally efficient algorithm that achieves sub-linear regret.