Reinforcement Learning Theory 4

Moderator: Ji Liu


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Wed 21 July 18:00 - 18:20 PDT

Provably Efficient Algorithms for Multi-Objective Competitive RL

Tiancheng Yu · Yi Tian · Jingzhao Zhang · Suvrit Sra

We study multi-objective reinforcement learning (RL) where an agent's reward is represented as a vector. In settings where an agent competes against opponents, its performance is measured by the distance of its average return vector to a target set. We develop statistically and computationally efficient algorithms to approach the associated target set. Our results extend Blackwell's approachability theorem~\citep{blackwell1956analog} to tabular RL, where strategic exploration becomes essential. The algorithms presented are adaptive; their guarantees hold even without Blackwell's approachability condition. If the opponents use fixed policies, we give an improved rate of approaching the target set while also tackling the more ambitious goal of simultaneously minimizing a scalar cost function. We discuss our analysis for this special case by relating our results to previous works on constrained RL. To our knowledge, this work provides the first provably efficient algorithms for vector-valued Markov games and our theoretical guarantees are near-optimal.

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Wed 21 July 18:20 - 18:25 PDT

Online Learning in Unknown Markov Games

Yi Tian · Yuanhao Wang · Tiancheng Yu · Suvrit Sra

We study online learning in unknown Markov games, a problem that arises in episodic multi-agent reinforcement learning where the actions of the opponents are unobservable. We show that in this challenging setting, achieving sublinear regret against the best response in hindsight is statistically hard. We then consider a weaker notion of regret by competing with the \emph{minimax value} of the game, and present an algorithm that achieves a sublinear $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(K^{2/3})$ regret after $K$ episodes. This is the first sublinear regret bound (to our knowledge) for online learning in unknown Markov games. Importantly, our regret bound is independent of the size of the opponents' action spaces. As a result, even when the opponents' actions are fully observable, our regret bound improves upon existing analysis (e.g., (Xie et al., 2020)) by an exponential factor in the number of opponents.

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Wed 21 July 18:25 - 18:30 PDT

A Sharp Analysis of Model-based Reinforcement Learning with Self-Play

Qinghua Liu · Tiancheng Yu · Yu Bai · Chi Jin

Model-based algorithms---algorithms that explore the environment through building and utilizing an estimated model---are widely used in reinforcement learning practice and theoretically shown to achieve optimal sample efficiency for single-agent reinforcement learning in Markov Decision Processes (MDPs). However, for multi-agent reinforcement learning in Markov games, the current best known sample complexity for model-based algorithms is rather suboptimal and compares unfavorably against recent model-free approaches. In this paper, we present a sharp analysis of model-based self-play algorithms for multi-agent Markov games. We design an algorithm \emph{Optimistic Nash Value Iteration} (Nash-VI) for two-player zero-sum Markov games that is able to output an $\epsilon$-approximate Nash policy in $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(H^3SAB/\epsilon^2)$ episodes of game playing, where $S$ is the number of states, $A,B$ are the number of actions for the two players respectively, and $H$ is the horizon length. This significantly improves over the best known model-based guarantee of $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(H^4S^2AB/\epsilon^2)$, and is the first that matches the information-theoretic lower bound $\Omega(H^3S(A+B)/\epsilon^2)$ except for a $\min\{A,B\}$ factor. In addition, our guarantee compares favorably against the best known model-free algorithm if $\min\{A,B\}=o(H^3)$, and outputs a single Markov policy while existing sample-efficient model-free algorithms output a nested mixture of Markov policies that is in general non-Markov and rather inconvenient to store and execute. We further adapt our analysis to designing a provably efficient task-agnostic algorithm for zero-sum Markov games, and designing the first line of provably sample-efficient algorithms for multi-player general-sum Markov games.

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Wed 21 July 18:30 - 18:35 PDT

Doubly Robust Off-Policy Actor-Critic: Convergence and Optimality

Tengyu Xu · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang · Yingbin LIANG

Designing off-policy reinforcement learning algorithms is typically a very challenging task, because a desirable iteration update often involves an expectation over an on-policy distribution. Prior off-policy actor-critic (AC) algorithms have introduced a new critic that uses the density ratio for adjusting the distribution mismatch in order to stabilize the convergence, but at the cost of potentially introducing high biases due to the estimation errors of both the density ratio and value function. In this paper, we develop a doubly robust off-policy AC (DR-Off-PAC) for discounted MDP, which can take advantage of learned nuisance functions to reduce estimation errors. Moreover, DR-Off-PAC adopts a single timescale structure, in which both actor and critics are updated simultaneously with constant stepsize, and is thus more sample efficient than prior algorithms that adopt either two timescale or nested-loop structure. We study the finite-time convergence rate and characterize the sample complexity for DR-Off-PAC to attain an $\epsilon$-accurate optimal policy. We also show that the overall convergence of DR-Off-PAC is doubly robust to the approximation errors that depend only on the expressive power of approximation functions. To the best of our knowledge, our study establishes the first overall sample complexity analysis for single time-scale off-policy AC algorithm.

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Wed 21 July 18:35 - 18:40 PDT

Towards Tight Bounds on the Sample Complexity of Average-reward MDPs

Yujia Jin · Aaron Sidford

We prove new upper and lower bounds for sample complexity of finding an $\epsilon$-optimal policy of an infinite-horizon average-reward Markov decision process (MDP) given access to a generative model. When the mixing time of the probability transition matrix of all policies is at most $t_\mathrm{mix}$, we provide an algorithm that solves the problem using $\widetilde{O}(t_\mathrm{mix} \epsilon^{-3})$ (oblivious) samples per state-action pair. Further, we provide a lower bound showing that a linear dependence on $t_\mathrm{mix}$ is necessary in the worst case for any algorithm which computes oblivious samples. We obtain our results by establishing connections between infinite-horizon average-reward MDPs and discounted MDPs of possible further utility.

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Wed 21 July 18:40 - 18:45 PDT

Finding the Stochastic Shortest Path with Low Regret: the Adversarial Cost and Unknown Transition Case

Liyu Chen · Haipeng Luo

We make significant progress toward the stochastic shortest path problem with adversarial costs and unknown transition. Specifically, we develop algorithms that achieve $O(\sqrt{S^2ADT_\star K})$ regret for the full-information setting and $O(\sqrt{S^3A^2DT_\star K})$ regret for the bandit feedback setting, where $D$ is the diameter, $T_\star$ is the expected hitting time of the optimal policy, $S$ is the number of states, $A$ is the number of actions, and $K$ is the number of episodes. Our work strictly improves (Rosenberg and Mansour, 2020) in the full information setting, extends (Chen et al., 2020) from known transition to unknown transition, and is also the first to consider the most challenging combination: bandit feedback with adversarial costs and unknown transition. To remedy the gap between our upper bounds and the current best lower bounds constructed via a stochastically oblivious adversary, we also propose algorithms with near-optimal regret for this special case.

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Wed 21 July 18:45 - 18:50 PDT