Near-Bayesian Exploration in Polynomial Time

We consider the exploration/exploitation problem in reinforcement learning (RL). The Bayesian approach to model-based RL offers an elegant solution to this problem, by considering a distribution over possible models and acting to maximize expected reward; unfortunately, the Bayesian solution is intractable for all but very restricted cases. In this paper we present a simple algorithm, and prove that with high probability it is able to perform ǫ-close to the true (intractable) optimal Bayesian policy after some small (polynomial in quantities describing the system) number of time steps. The algorithm and analysis are motivated by the so-called PACMDP approach, and extend such results into the setting of Bayesian RL. In this setting, we show that we can achieve lower sample complexity bounds than existing algorithms, while using an exploration strategy that is much greedier than the (extremely cautious) exploration of PAC-MDP algorithms. Authors: J. Zico Kolter, Andrew Y. Ng (2009)
AUTHORED BY
J. Zico Kolter
Andrew Y. Ng

Abstract

We consider the exploration/exploitation problem in reinforcement learning (RL). The Bayesian approach to model-based RL offers an elegant solution to this problem, by considering a distribution over possible models and acting to maximize expected reward; unfortunately, the Bayesian solution is intractable for all but very restricted cases. In this paper we present a simple algorithm, and prove that with high probability it is able to perform ǫ-close to the true (intractable) optimal Bayesian policy after some small (polynomial in quantities describing the system) number of time steps. The algorithm and analysis are motivated by the so-called PACMDP approach, and extend such results into the setting of Bayesian RL. In this setting, we show that we can achieve lower sample complexity bounds than existing algorithms, while using an exploration strategy that is much greedier than the (extremely cautious) exploration of PAC-MDP algorithms.

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