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Horizon-Free and Variance-Dependent Reinforcement Learning for Latent Markov Decision Processes

Runlong Zhou · Ruosong Wang · Simon Du

Exhibit Hall 1 #327
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Abstract: We study regret minimization for reinforcement learning (RL) in Latent Markov Decision Processes (LMDPs) with context in hindsight. We design a novel model-based algorithmic framework which can be instantiated with both a model-optimistic and a value-optimistic solver. We prove an $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{\mathsf{Var}^\star M \Gamma S A K})$ regret bound where $\tilde{O}$ hides logarithm factors, $M$ is the number of contexts, $S$ is the number of states, $A$ is the number of actions, $K$ is the number of episodes, $\Gamma \le S$ is the maximum transition degree of any state-action pair, and $\mathsf{Var}^\star$ is a variance quantity describing the determinism of the LMDP. The regret bound only scales logarithmically with the planning horizon, thus yielding the first (nearly) horizon-free regret bound for LMDP. This is also the first problem-dependent regret bound for LMDP. Key in our proof is an analysis of the total variance of alpha vectors (a generalization of value functions), which is handled with a truncation method. We complement our positive result with a novel $\Omega(\sqrt{\mathsf{Var}^\star M S A K})$ regret lower bound with $\Gamma = 2$, which shows our upper bound minimax optimal when $\Gamma$ is a constant for the class of variance-bounded LMDPs. Our lower bound relies on new constructions of hard instances and an argument inspired by the symmetrization technique from theoretical computer science, both of which are technically different from existing lower bound proof for MDPs, and thus can be of independent interest.

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