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Theory: Online Learning/Bandits

Room 309

Moderator: Quanquan Gu

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Tue 19 July 7:30 - 7:50 PDT

Online Learning for Min Sum Set Cover and Pandora’s Box

Evangelia Gergatsouli · Christos Tzamos

Two central problems in Stochastic Optimization are Min-Sum Set Cover and Pandora’s Box. In Pandora’s Box, we are presented with n boxes, each containing an unknown value and the goal is to open the boxes in some order to minimize the sum of the search cost and the smallest value found. Given a distribution of value vectors, we are asked to identify a near-optimal search order. Min-Sum Set Cover corresponds to the case where values are either 0 or infinity.In this work, we study the case where the value vectors are not drawn from a distribution but are presented to a learner in an online fashion. We present a computationally efficient algorithm that is constant-competitive against the cost of the optimal search order. We extend our results to a bandit setting where only the values of the boxes opened are revealed to the learner after every round. We also generalize our results to other commonly studied variants of Pandora’s Box and Min-Sum Set Cover that involve selecting more than a single value subject to a matroid constraint.

Tue 19 July 7:50 - 7:55 PDT

Smoothed Adversarial Linear Contextual Bandits with Knapsacks

Vidyashankar Sivakumar · Shiliang Zuo · Arindam Banerjee

Many bandit problems are characterized by the learner making decisions under constraints. The learner in Linear Contextual Bandits with Knapsacks (LinCBwK) receives a resource consumption vector in addition to a scalar reward in each time step which are both linear functions of the context corresponding to the chosen arm. For a fixed time horizon $T$, the goal of the learner is to maximize rewards while ensuring resource consumptions do not exceed a pre-specified budget. We present algorithms and characterize regret for LinCBwK in the smoothed setting where base context vectors are assumed to be perturbed by Gaussian noise. We consider both the stochastic and adversarial settings for the base contexts, and our analysis of stochastic LinCBwK can be viewed as a warm-up to the more challenging adversarial LinCBwK. For the stochastic setting, we obtain $O(\sqrt{T})$ additive regret bounds compared to the best context dependent fixed policy. The analysis combines ideas for greedy parameter estimation in \cite{kmrw18, siwb20} and the primal-dual paradigm first explored in \cite{agde17, agde14}. Our main contribution is an algorithm with $O(\log T)$ competitive ratio relative to the best context dependent fixed policy for the adversarial setting. The algorithm for the adversarial setting employs ideas from the primal-dual framework \cite{agde17, agde14} and a novel adaptation of the doubling trick \cite{isss19}.

Tue 19 July 7:55 - 8:00 PDT

Simultaneously Learning Stochastic and Adversarial Bandits with General Graph Feedback

Fang Kong · Yichi Zhou · Shuai Li

The problem of online learning with graph feedback has been extensively studied in the literature due to its generality and potential to model various learning tasks. Existing works mainly study the adversarial and stochastic feedback separately. If the prior knowledge of the feedback mechanism is unavailable or wrong, such specially designed algorithms could suffer great loss. To avoid this problem, \citet{erez2021towards} try to optimize for both environments. However, they assume the feedback graphs are undirected and each vertex has a self-loop, which compromises the generality of the framework and may not be satisfied in applications. With a general feedback graph, the observation of an arm may not be available when this arm is pulled, which makes the exploration more expensive and the algorithms more challenging to perform optimally in both environments. In this work, we overcome this difficulty by a new trade-off mechanism with a carefully-designed proportion for exploration and exploitation. We prove the proposed algorithm simultaneously achieves $\mathrm{poly} \log T$ regret in the stochastic setting and minimax-optimal regret of $\tilde{O}(T^{2/3})$ in the adversarial setting where $T$ is the horizon and $\tilde{O}$ hides parameters independent of $T$ as well as logarithmic terms. To our knowledge, this is the first best-of-both-worlds result for general feedback graphs.

Tue 19 July 8:00 - 8:05 PDT

Thompson Sampling for (Combinatorial) Pure Exploration

Siwei Wang · Jun Zhu

Existing methods of combinatorial pure exploration mainly focus on the UCB approach. To make the algorithm efficient, they usually use the sum of upper confidence bounds within arm set $S$ to represent the upper confidence bound of $S$, which can be much larger than the tight upper confidence bound of $S$ and leads to a much higher complexity than necessary, since the empirical means of different arms in $S$ are independent. To deal with this challenge, we explore the idea of Thompson Sampling (TS) that uses independent random samples instead of the upper confidence bounds, and design the first TS-based algorithm TS-Explore for (combinatorial) pure exploration. In TS-Explore, the sum of independent random samples within arm set $S$ will not exceed the tight upper confidence bound of $S$ with high probability. Hence it solves the above challenge, and achieves a lower complexity upper bound than existing efficient UCB-based algorithms in general combinatorial pure exploration. As for pure exploration of classic multi-armed bandit, we show that TS-Explore achieves an asymptotically optimal complexity upper bound.

Tue 19 July 8:05 - 8:10 PDT

Revisiting Online Submodular Minimization: Gap-Dependent Regret Bounds, Best of Both Worlds and Adversarial Robustness

Shinji Ito

In this paper, we consider online decision problems with submodular loss functions. For such problems, existing studies have only dealt with worst-case analysis. This study goes beyond worst-case analysis to show instance-dependent regret bounds. More precisely, for each of the full-information and bandit-feedback settings, we propose an algorithm that achieves a gap-dependent O(log T)-regret bound in the stochastic environment and is comparable to the best existing algorithm in the adversarial environment. The proposed algorithms also work well in the stochastic environment with adversarial corruptions, which is an intermediate setting between the stochastic and adversarial environments.

Tue 19 July 8:10 - 8:15 PDT

Rotting Infinitely Many-Armed Bandits

Jung-hun Kim · Milan Vojnovic · Se-Young Yun

We consider the infinitely many-armed bandit problem with rotting rewards, where the mean reward of an arm decreases at each pull of the arm according to an arbitrary trend with maximum rotting rate $\varrho=o(1)$. We show that this learning problem has an $\Omega(\max\{\varrho^{1/3}T, \sqrt{T}\})$ worst-case regret lower bound where $T$ is the time horizon. We show that a matching upper bound $\tilde{O}(\max\{\varrho^{1/3}T, \sqrt{T}\})$, up to a poly-logarithmic factor, can be achieved by an algorithm that uses a UCB index for each arm and a threshold value to decide whether to continue pulling an arm or remove the arm from further consideration, when the algorithm knows the value of the maximum rotting rate $\varrho$. We also show that an $\tilde{O}(\max\{\varrho^{1/3}T, T^{3/4}\})$ regret upper bound can be achieved by an algorithm that does not know the value of $\varrho$, by using an adaptive UCB index along with an adaptive threshold value.

Tue 19 July 8:15 - 8:35 PDT

Batched Dueling Bandits

Arpit Agarwal · Rohan Ghuge · viswanath nagarajan

The K-armed dueling bandit problem, where the feedback is in the form of noisy pairwise comparisons, has been widely studied. Previous works have only focused on the sequential setting where the policy adapts after every comparison. However, in many applications such as search ranking and recommendation systems, it is preferable to perform comparisons in a limited number of parallel batches. We study the batched K-armed dueling bandit problem under two standard settings: (i) existence of a Condorcet winner, and (ii) strong stochastic transitivity and stochastic triangle inequality. For both settings, we obtain algorithms with a smooth trade-off between the number of batches and regret. Our regret bounds match the best known sequential regret bounds (up to poly-logarithmic factors), using only a logarithmic number of batches. We complement our regret analysis with a nearly-matching lower bound. Finally, we also validate our theoretical results via experiments on synthetic and real data.

Tue 19 July 8:35 - 8:40 PDT

Equivalence Analysis between Counterfactual Regret Minimization and Online Mirror Descent

Weiming Liu · Huacong Jiang · Bin Li · Houqiang Li

Follow-the-Regularized-Leader (FTRL) and Online Mirror Descent (OMD) are regret minimization algorithms for Online Convex Optimization (OCO), they are mathematically elegant but less practical in solving Extensive-Form Games (EFGs). Counterfactual Regret Minimization (CFR) is a technique for approximating Nash equilibria in EFGs. CFR and its variants have a fast convergence rate in practice, but their theoretical results are not satisfactory. In recent years, researchers have been trying to link CFRs with OCO algorithms, which may provide new theoretical results and inspire new algorithms. However, existing analysis is restricted to local decision points. In this paper, we show that CFRs with Regret Matching and Regret Matching+ are equivalent to special cases of FTRL and OMD, respectively. According to these equivalences, a new FTRL and a new OMD algorithm, which can be considered as extensions of vanilla CFR and CFR+, are derived. The experimental results show that the two variants converge faster than conventional FTRL and OMD, even faster than vanilla CFR and CFR+ in some EFGs.

Tue 19 July 8:40 - 8:45 PDT

Consistent Polyhedral Surrogates for Top-k Classification and Variants

Anish Thilagar · Rafael Frongillo · Jessie Finocchiaro · Emma Goodwill

Top-$k$ classification is a generalization of multiclass classification used widely in information retrieval, image classification, and other extreme classification settings. Several hinge-like (piecewise-linear) surrogates have been proposed for the problem, yet all are either non-convex or inconsistent.For the proposed hinge-like surrogates that are convex (i.e., polyhedral), we apply the recent embedding framework of Finocchiaro et al.(2019; 2022) to determine the prediction problem for which the surrogate is consistent.These problems can all be interpreted as variants of top-$k$ classification, which may be better aligned with some applications.We leverage this analysis to derive constraints on the conditional label distributions under which these proposed surrogates become consistent for top-$k$.It has been further suggested that every convex hinge-like surrogate must be inconsistent for top-$k$.Yet, we use the same embedding framework to give the first consistent polyhedral surrogate for this problem.

Tue 19 July 8:45 - 8:50 PDT

Stochastic Contextual Dueling Bandits under Linear Stochastic Transitivity Models

Viktor Bengs · Aadirupa Saha · Eyke Hüllermeier

We consider the regret minimization task in a dueling bandits problem with context information. In every round of the sequential decision problem, the learner makes a context-dependent selection of two choice alternatives (arms) to be compared with each other and receives feedback in the form of noisy preference information. We assume that the feedback process is determined by a linear stochastic transitivity model with contextualized utilities (CoLST), and the learner's task is to include the best arm (with highest latent context-dependent utility) in the duel. We propose a computationally efficient algorithm, \Algo{CoLSTIM}, which makes its choice based on imitating the feedback process using perturbed context-dependent utility estimates of the underlying CoLST model. If each arm is associated with a $d$-dimensional feature vector, we show that \Algo{CoLSTIM} achieves a regret of order $\tilde O( \sqrt{dT})$ after $T$ learning rounds. Additionally, we also establish the optimality of \Algo{CoLSTIM} by showing a lower bound for the weak regret that refines the existing average regret analysis. Our experiments demonstrate its superiority over state-of-art algorithms for special cases of CoLST models.

Tue 19 July 8:50 - 8:55 PDT

Optimal and Efficient Dynamic Regret Algorithms for Non-Stationary Dueling Bandits

Aadirupa Saha · Shubham Gupta

We study the problem of \emph{dynamic regret minimization} in $K$-armed Dueling Bandits under non-stationary or time-varying preferences. This is an online learning setup where the agent chooses a pair of items at each round and observes only a relative binary `win-loss' feedback for this pair sampled from an underlying preference matrix at that round. We first study the problem of static-regret minimization for adversarial preference sequences and design an efficient algorithm with $O(\sqrt{KT})$ regret bound. We next use similar algorithmic ideas to propose an efficient and provably optimal algorithm for dynamic-regret minimization under two notions of non-stationarities. In particular, we show $\tO(\sqrt{SKT})$ and $\tO({V_T^{1/3}K^{1/3}T^{2/3}})$ dynamic-regret guarantees, respectively, with $S$ being the total number of `effective-switches' in the underlying preference relations and $V_T$ being a measure of `continuous-variation' non-stationarity. These rates are provably optimal as justified with matching lower bound guarantees. Moreover, our proposed algorithms are flexible as they can be easily `blackboxed' to yield dynamic regret guarantees for other notions of dueling bandits regret, including condorcet regret, best-response bounds, and Borda regret. The complexity of these problems have not been studied prior to this work despite the practicality of non-stationary environments. Our results are corroborated with extensive simulations.

Tue 19 July 8:55 - 9:00 PDT

Online Nonsubmodular Minimization with Delayed Costs: From Full Information to Bandit Feedback

Tianyi Lin · Aldo Pacchiano · Yaodong Yu · Michael Jordan

Motivated by applications to online learning in sparse estimation and Bayesian optimization, we consider the problem of online unconstrained nonsubmodular minimization with delayed costs in both full information and bandit feedback settings. In contrast to previous works on online unconstrained submodular minimization, we focus on a class of nonsubmodular functions with special structure, and prove regret guarantees for several variants of the online and approximate online bandit gradient descent algorithms in static and delayed scenarios. We derive bounds for the agent's regret in the full information and bandit feedback setting, even if the delay between choosing a decision and receiving the incurred cost is unbounded. Key to our approach is the notion of $(\alpha, \beta)$-regret and the extension of the generic convex relaxation model from~\citet{El-2020-Optimal}, the analysis of which is of independent interest. We conduct and showcase several simulation studies to demonstrate the efficacy of our algorithms.