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T: Game Theory/RL/Planning

Room 310

Moderator: Chi Jin

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Wed 20 July 7:30 - 7:50 PDT

A Minimax Learning Approach to Off-Policy Evaluation in Confounded Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes

Chengchun Shi · Masatoshi Uehara · Jiawei Huang · Nan Jiang

We consider off-policy evaluation (OPE) in Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDPs), where the evaluation policy depends only on observable variables and the behavior policy depends on unobservable latent variables. Existing works either assume no unmeasured confounders, or focus on settings where both the observation and the state spaces are tabular. In this work, we first propose novel identification methods for OPE in POMDPs with latent confounders, by introducing bridge functions that link the target policy's value and the observed data distribution. We next propose minimax estimation methods for learning these bridge functions, and construct three estimators based on these estimated bridge functions, corresponding to a value function-based estimator, a marginalized importance sampling estimator, and a doubly-robust estimator. Our proposal permits general function approximation and is thus applicable to settings with continuous or large observation/state spaces. The nonasymptotic and asymptotic properties of the proposed estimators are investigated in detail. A Python implementation of our proposal is available at Confounded-POMDP-Exp.

Wed 20 July 7:50 - 7:55 PDT

The Power of Exploiter: Provable Multi-Agent RL in Large State Spaces

Chi Jin · Qinghua Liu · Tiancheng Yu

Modern reinforcement learning (RL) commonly engages practical problems with large state spaces, where function approximation must be deployed to approximate either the value function or the policy. While recent progresses in RL theory address a rich set of RL problems with general function approximation, such successes are mostly restricted to the single-agent setting. It remains elusive how to extend these results to multi-agent RL, especially in the face of new game-theoretical challenges. This paper considers two-player zero-sum Markov Games (MGs). We propose a new algorithm that can provably find the Nash equilibrium policy using a polynomial number of samples, for any MG with low \emph{multi-agent Bellman-Eluder dimension}---a new complexity measure adapted from its single-agent version (Jin et al., 2021). A key component of our new algorithm is the exploiter, which facilitates the learning of the main player by deliberately exploiting her weakness. Our theoretical framework is generic, which applies to a wide range of models including but not limited to tabular MGs, MGs with linear or kernel function approximation, and MGs with rich observations.

Wed 20 July 7:55 - 8:00 PDT

Extracting Latent State Representations with Linear Dynamics from Rich Observations

Abraham Frandsen · Rong Ge · Holden Lee

Recently, many reinforcement learning techniques have been shown to have provable guarantees in the simple case of linear dynamics, especially in problems like linear quadratic regulators. However, in practice many tasks require learning a policy from rich, high-dimensional features such as images, which are unlikely to be linear. We consider a setting where there is a hidden linear subspace of the high-dimensional feature space in which the dynamics are linear. We design natural objectives based on forward and inverse dynamics models. We prove that these objectives can be efficiently optimized and their local optimizers extract the hidden linear subspace. We empirically verify our theoretical results with synthetic data and explore the effectiveness of our approach (generalized to nonlinear settings) in simple control tasks with rich observations.

Wed 20 July 8:00 - 8:05 PDT

For Learning in Symmetric Teams, Local Optima are Global Nash Equilibria

Scott Emmons · Caspar Oesterheld · Andrew Critch · Vincent Conitzer · Stuart Russell

Although it has been known since the 1970s that a \textit{globally} optimal strategy profile in a common-payoff game is a Nash equilibrium, global optimality is a strict requirement that limits the result's applicability. In this work, we show that any \textit{locally} optimal symmetric strategy profile is also a (global) Nash equilibrium. Furthermore, we show that this result is robust to perturbations to the common payoff and to the local optimum. Applied to machine learning, our result provides a global guarantee for any gradient method that finds a local optimum in symmetric strategy space. While this result indicates stability to \textit{unilateral} deviation, we nevertheless identify broad classes of games where mixed local optima are unstable under \textit{joint}, asymmetric deviations. We analyze the prevalence of instability by running learning algorithms in a suite of symmetric games, and we conclude by discussing the applicability of our results to multi-agent RL, cooperative inverse RL, and decentralized POMDPs.

Wed 20 July 8:05 - 8:10 PDT

Consensus Multiplicative Weights Update: Learning to Learn using Projector-based Game Signatures

Nelson Vadori · Rahul Savani · Thomas Spooner · Sumitra Ganesh

Cheung and Piliouras (2020) recently showed that two variants of the Multiplicative Weights Update method - OMWU and MWU - display opposite convergence properties depending on whether the game is zero-sum or cooperative. Inspired by this work and the recent literature on learning to optimize for single functions, we introduce a new framework for learning last-iterate convergence to Nash Equilibria in games, where the update rule's coefficients (learning rates) along a trajectory are learnt by a reinforcement learning policy that is conditioned on the nature of the game: \textit{the game signature}. We construct the latter using a new decomposition of two-player games into eight components corresponding to commutative projection operators, generalizing and unifying recent game concepts studied in the literature. We compare the performance of various update rules when their coefficients are learnt, and show that the RL policy is able to exploit the game signature across a wide range of game types. In doing so, we introduce CMWU, a new algorithm that extends consensus optimization to the constrained case, has local convergence guarantees for zero-sum bimatrix games, and show that it enjoys competitive performance on both zero-sum games with constant coefficients and across a spectrum of games when its coefficients are learnt.

Wed 20 July 8:10 - 8:30 PDT

Learning Markov Games with Adversarial Opponents: Efficient Algorithms and Fundamental Limits

Qinghua Liu · Yuanhao Wang · Chi Jin

An ideal strategy in zero-sum games should not only grant the player an average reward no less than the value of Nash equilibrium, but also exploit the (adaptive) opponents when they are suboptimal. While most existing works in Markov games focus exclusively on the former objective, it remains open whether we can achieve both objectives simultaneously. To address this problem, this work studies no-regret learning in Markov games with adversarial opponents when competing against the best fixed policy in hindsight. Along this direction, we present a new complete set of positive and negative results: When the policies of the opponents are revealed at the end of each episode, we propose new efficient algorithms achieving $\sqrt{K}$ regret bounds when either (1) the baseline policy class is small or (2) the opponent’s policy class is small. This is complemented with an exponential lower bound when neither conditions are true. When the policies of the opponents are not revealed, we prove a statistical hardness result even in the most favorable scenario when both above conditions are true. Our hardness result is much stronger than the existing hardness results which either only involve computational hardness, or require further restrictions on the algorithms.

Wed 20 July 8:30 - 8:35 PDT

Strategic Instrumental Variable Regression: Recovering Causal Relationships From Strategic Responses

Keegan Harris · Dung Ngo · Logan Stapleton · Hoda Heidari · Steven Wu

In settings where Machine Learning (ML) algorithms automate or inform consequential decisions about people, individual decision subjects are often incentivized to strategically modify their observable attributes to receive more favorable predictions. As a result, the distribution the assessment rule is trained on may differ from the one it operates on in deployment. While such distribution shifts, in general, can hinder accurate predictions, our work identifies a unique opportunity associated with shifts due to strategic responses: We show that we can use strategic responses effectively to recover causal relationships between the observable features and outcomes we wish to predict, even under the presence of unobserved confounding variables. Specifically, our work establishes a novel connection between strategic responses to ML models and instrumental variable (IV) regression by observing that the sequence of deployed models can be viewed as an instrument that affects agents’ observable features but does not directly influence their outcomes. We show that our causal recovery method can be utilized to improve decision-making across several important criteria: individual fairness, agent outcomes, and predictive risk. In particular, we show that if decision subjects differ in their ability to modify non-causal attributes, any decision rule deviating from the causal coefficients can lead to (potentially unbounded) individual-level unfairness..

Wed 20 July 8:35 - 8:40 PDT

Learning to Infer Structures of Network Games

Emanuele Rossi · Federico Monti · Yan Leng · Michael Bronstein · Xiaowen Dong

Strategic interactions between a group of individuals or organisations can be modelled as games played on networks, where a player's payoff depends not only on their actions but also on those of their neighbours. Inferring the network structure from observed game outcomes (equilibrium actions) is an important problem with numerous potential applications in economics and social sciences. Existing methods mostly require the knowledge of the utility function associated with the game, which is often unrealistic to obtain in real-world scenarios. We adopt a transformer-like architecture which correctly accounts for the symmetries of the problem and learns a mapping from the equilibrium actions to the network structure of the game without explicit knowledge of the utility function. We test our method on three different types of network games using both synthetic and real-world data, and demonstrate its effectiveness in network structure inference and superior performance over existing methods.

Wed 20 July 8:40 - 8:45 PDT

Nearly Minimax Optimal Reinforcement Learning with Linear Function Approximation

Pihe Hu · Yu Chen · Longbo Huang

We study reinforcement learning with linear function approximation where the transition probability and reward functions are linear with respect to a feature mapping $\boldsymbol{\phi}(s,a)$. Specifically, we consider the episodic inhomogeneous linear Markov Decision Process (MDP), and propose a novel computation-efficient algorithm, LSVI-UCB$^+$, which achieves an $\widetilde{O}(Hd\sqrt{T})$ regret bound where $H$ is the episode length, $d$ is the feature dimension, and $T$ is the number of steps. LSVI-UCB$^+$ builds on weighted ridge regression and upper confidence value iteration with a Bernstein-type exploration bonus. Our statistical results are obtained with novel analytical tools, including a new Bernstein self-normalized bound with conservatism on elliptical potentials, and refined analysis of the correction term. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first minimax optimal algorithm for linear MDPs up to logarithmic factors, which closes the $\sqrt{Hd}$ gap between the best known upper bound of $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{H^3d^3T})$ in \cite{jin2020provably} and lower bound of $\Omega(Hd\sqrt{T})$ for linear MDPs.

Wed 20 July 8:45 - 8:50 PDT

Near-Optimal Learning of Extensive-Form Games with Imperfect Information

Yu Bai · Chi Jin · Song Mei · Tiancheng Yu

This paper resolves the open question of designing near-optimal algorithms for learning imperfect-information extensive-form games from bandit feedback. We present the first line of algorithms that require only $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}((XA+YB)/\varepsilon^2)$ episodes of play to find an $\varepsilon$-approximate Nash equilibrium in two-player zero-sum games, where $X,Y$ are the number of information sets and $A,B$ are the number of actions for the two players. This improves upon the best known sample complexity of $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}((X^2A+Y^2B)/\varepsilon^2)$ by a factor of $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\max\{X, Y\})$, and matches the information-theoretic lower bound up to logarithmic factors. We achieve this sample complexity by two new algorithms: Balanced Online Mirror Descent, and Balanced Counterfactual Regret Minimization. Both algorithms rely on novel approaches of integrating \emph{balanced exploration policies} into their classical counterparts. We also extend our results to learning Coarse Correlated Equilibria in multi-player general-sum games.

Wed 20 July 8:50 - 8:55 PDT

Guarantees for Epsilon-Greedy Reinforcement Learning with Function Approximation

Chris Dann · Yishay Mansour · Mehryar Mohri · Ayush Sekhari · Karthik Sridharan

Myopic exploration policies such as epsilon-greedy, softmax, or Gaussian noise fail to explore efficiently in some reinforcement learning tasks and yet, they perform well in many others. In fact, in practice, they are often selected as the top choices, due to their simplicity. But, for what tasks do such policies succeed? Can we give theoretical guarantees for their favorable performance? These crucial questions have been scarcely investigated, despite the prominent practical importance of these policies. This paper presents a theoretical analysis of such policies and provides the first regret and sample-complexity bounds for reinforcement learning with myopic exploration. Our results apply to value-function-based algorithms in episodic MDPs with bounded Bellman Eluder dimension. We propose a new complexity measure called myopic exploration gap, denoted by alpha, that captures a structural property of the MDP, the exploration policy and the given value function class. We show that the sample-complexity of myopic exploration scales quadratically with the inverse of this quantity, 1 / alpha^2. We further demonstrate through concrete examples that myopic exploration gap is indeed favorable in several tasks where myopic exploration succeeds, due to the corresponding dynamics and reward structure.