skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Chi, Yuejie"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 2, 2025
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  3. This paper studies a central issue in modern reinforcement learning, the sample efficiency, and makes progress toward solving an idealistic scenario that assumes access to a generative model or a simulator. Despite a large number of prior works tackling this problem, a complete picture of the trade-offs between sample complexity and statistical accuracy has yet to be determined. In particular, all prior results suffer from a severe sample size barrier in the sense that their claimed statistical guarantees hold only when the sample size exceeds some enormous threshold. The current paper overcomes this barrier and fully settles this problem; more specifically, we establish the minimax optimality of the model-based approach for any given target accuracy level. To the best of our knowledge, this work delivers the first minimax-optimal guarantees that accommodate the entire range of sample sizes (beyond which finding a meaningful policy is information theoretically infeasible).

    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  4. This paper investigates a model-free algorithm of broad interest in reinforcement learning, namely, Q-learning. Whereas substantial progress had been made toward understanding the sample efficiency of Q-learning in recent years, it remained largely unclear whether Q-learning is sample-optimal and how to sharpen the sample complexity analysis of Q-learning. In this paper, we settle these questions: (1) When there is only a single action, we show that Q-learning (or, equivalently, TD learning) is provably minimax optimal. (2) When there are at least two actions, our theory unveils the strict suboptimality of Q-learning and rigorizes the negative impact of overestimation in Q-learning. Our theory accommodates both the synchronous case (i.e., the case in which independent samples are drawn) and the asynchronous case (i.e., the case in which one only has access to a single Markovian trajectory).

    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  5. In this paper, we consider federated Q-learning, which aims to learn an optimal Q-function by periodically aggregating local Q-estimates trained on local data alone. Focusing on infinite-horizon tabular Markov decision processes, we provide sample complexity guarantees for both the synchronous and asynchronous variants of federated Q-learning. In both cases, our bounds exhibit a linear speedup with respect to the number of agents and sharper dependencies on other salient problem parameters. Moreover, existing approaches to federated Q-learning adopt an equally-weighted averaging of local Q-estimates, which can be highly sub-optimal in the asynchronous setting since the local trajectories can be highly heterogeneous due to different local behavior policies. Existing sample complexity scales inverse proportionally to the minimum entry of the stationary state-action occupancy distributions over all agents, requiring that every agent covers the entire state-action space. Instead, we propose a novel importance averaging algorithm, giving larger weights to more frequently visited state-action pairs. The improved sample complexity scales inverse proportionally to the minimum entry of the average stationary state-action occupancy distribution of all agents, thus only requiring the agents collectively cover the entire state-action space, unveiling the blessing of heterogeneity. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 24, 2024
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 4, 2024
  7. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 30, 2024
  8. Abstract Achieving sample efficiency in online episodic reinforcement learning (RL) requires optimally balancing exploration and exploitation. When it comes to a finite-horizon episodic Markov decision process with $S$ states, $A$ actions and horizon length $H$, substantial progress has been achieved toward characterizing the minimax-optimal regret, which scales on the order of $\sqrt{H^2SAT}$ (modulo log factors) with $T$ the total number of samples. While several competing solution paradigms have been proposed to minimize regret, they are either memory-inefficient, or fall short of optimality unless the sample size exceeds an enormous threshold (e.g. $S^6A^4 \,\mathrm{poly}(H)$ for existing model-free methods). To overcome such a large sample size barrier to efficient RL, we design a novel model-free algorithm, with space complexity $O(SAH)$, that achieves near-optimal regret as soon as the sample size exceeds the order of $SA\,\mathrm{poly}(H)$. In terms of this sample size requirement (also referred to the initial burn-in cost), our method improves—by at least a factor of $S^5A^3$—upon any prior memory-efficient algorithm that is asymptotically regret-optimal. Leveraging the recently introduced variance reduction strategy (also called reference-advantage decomposition), the proposed algorithm employs an early-settled reference update rule, with the aid of two Q-learning sequences with upper and lower confidence bounds. The design principle of our early-settled variance reduction method might be of independent interest to other RL settings that involve intricate exploration–exploitation trade-offs. 
    more » « less