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  1. The offline reinforcement learning (RL) problem is often motivated by the need to learn data-driven decision policies in financial, legal and healthcare applications. However, the learned policy could retain sensitive information of individuals in the training data (e.g., treatment and outcome of patients), thus susceptible to various privacy risks. We design offline RL algorithms with differential privacy guarantees which provably prevent such risks. These algorithms also enjoy strong instance-dependent learning bounds under both tabular and linear Markov Decision Process (MDP) settings. Our theory and simulation suggest that the privacy guarantee comes at (almost) no drop in utility comparing to the non-private counterpart for a medium-size dataset. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 7, 2024
  2. Evans, Robin J. (Ed.)
    We study linear bandits when the underlying reward function is not linear. Existing work relies on a uniform misspecification parameter $\epsilon$ that measures the sup-norm error of the best linear approximation. This results in an unavoidable linear regret whenever $\epsilon > 0$. We describe a more natural model of misspecification which only requires the approximation error at each input $x$ to be proportional to the suboptimality gap at $x$. It captures the intuition that, for optimization problems, near-optimal regions should matter more and we can tolerate larger approximation errors in suboptimal regions. Quite surprisingly, we show that the classical LinUCB algorithm — designed for the realizable case — is automatically robust against such gap-adjusted misspecification. It achieves a near-optimal $\sqrt{T}$ regret for problems that the best-known regret is almost linear in time horizon $T$. Technically, our proof relies on a novel self-bounding argument that bounds the part of the regret due to misspecification by the regret itself. 
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  3. Krause, Andreas and (Ed.)
    General function approximation is a powerful tool to handle large state and action spaces in a broad range of reinforcement learning (RL) scenarios. However, theoretical understanding of non-stationary MDPs with general function approximation is still limited. In this paper, we make the first such an attempt. We first propose a new complexity metric called dynamic Bellman Eluder (DBE) dimension for non-stationary MDPs, which subsumes majority of existing tractable RL problems in static MDPs as well as non-stationary MDPs. Based on the proposed complexity metric, we propose a novel confidence-set based model-free algorithm called SW-OPEA, which features a sliding window mechanism and a new confidence set design for non-stationary MDPs. We then establish an upper bound on the dynamic regret for the proposed algorithm, and show that SW-OPEA is provably efficient as long as the variation budget is not significantly large. We further demonstrate via examples of non-stationary linear and tabular MDPs that our algorithm performs better in small variation budget scenario than the existing UCB-type algorithms. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first dynamic regret analysis in non-stationary MDPs with general function approximation. 
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  4. Krause, Andreas and (Ed.)
    Behavior constrained policy optimization has been demonstrated to be a successful paradigm for tackling Offline Reinforcement Learning. By exploiting historical transitions, a policy is trained to maximize a learned value function while constrained by the behavior policy to avoid a significant distributional shift. In this paper, we propose our closed-form policy improvement operators. We make a novel observation that the behavior constraint naturally motivates the use of first-order Taylor approximation, leading to a linear approximation of the policy objective. Additionally, as practical datasets are usually collected by heterogeneous policies, we model the behavior policies as a Gaussian Mixture and overcome the induced optimization difficulties by leveraging the LogSumExp’s lower bound and Jensen’s Inequality, giving rise to a closed-form policy improvement operator. We instantiate both one-step and iterative offline RL algorithms with our novel policy improvement operators and empirically demonstrate their effectiveness over state-of-the-art algorithms on the standard D4RL benchmark. Our code is available at https://cfpi-icml23.github.io/. 
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  5. Ruiz, Francisco and (Ed.)
    Motivated by personalized healthcare and other applications involving sensitive data, we study online exploration in reinforcement learning with differential privacy (DP) constraints. Existing work on this problem established that no-regret learning is possible under joint differential privacy (JDP) and local differential privacy (LDP) but did not provide an algorithm with optimal regret. We close this gap for the JDP case by designing an $\epsilon$-JDP algorithm with a regret of $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{SAH^2T}+S^2AH^3/\epsilon)$ which matches the information-theoretic lower bound of non-private learning for all choices of $\epsilon> S^{1.5}A^{0.5} H^2/\sqrt{T}$. In the above, $S$, $A$ denote the number of states and actions, $H$ denotes the planning horizon, and $T$ is the number of steps. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first private RL algorithm that achieves privacy for free asymptotically as $T\rightarrow \infty$. Our techniques — which could be of independent interest — include privately releasing Bernstein-type exploration bonuses and an improved method for releasing visitation statistics. The same techniques also imply a slightly improved regret bound for the LDP case. 
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  6. Ruiz, Francisco and (Ed.)
    We consider the problem of universal dynamic regret minimization under exp-concave and smooth losses. We show that appropriately designed Strongly Adaptive algorithms achieve a dynamic regret of $\tilde O(d^2 n^{1/5} [\mathcal{TV}_1(w_{1:n})]^{2/5} \vee d^2)$, where $n$ is the time horizon and $\mathcal{TV}_1(w_{1:n})$ a path variational based on second order differences of the comparator sequence. Such a path variational naturally encodes comparator sequences that are piece-wise linear – a powerful family that tracks a variety of non-stationarity patterns in practice (Kim et al., 2009). The aforementioned dynamic regret is shown to be optimal modulo dimension dependencies and poly-logarithmic factors of $n$. To the best of our knowledge, this path variational has not been studied in the non-stochastic online learning literature before. Our proof techniques rely on analysing the KKT conditions of the offline oracle and requires several non-trivial generalizations of the ideas in Baby and Wang (2021) where the latter work only implies an $\tilde{O}(n^{1/3})$ regret for the current problem. 
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  7. Motivated by personalized healthcare and other applications involving sensitive data, we study online exploration in reinforcement learning with differential privacy (DP) constraints. Existing work on this problem established that no-regret learning is possible under joint differential privacy (JDP) and local differential privacy (LDP) but did not provide an algorithm with optimal regret. We close this gap for the JDP case by designing an ϵ-JDP algorithm with a regret of O˜(sqrt(SAH^2T) +S^2AH^3/ϵ) which matches the information-theoretic lower bound of non-private learning for all choices of ϵ>S^1.5A^0.5H^2/sqrt(T). In the above, S, A denote the number of states and actions, H denotes the planning horizon, and T is the number of steps. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first private RL algorithm that achieves \emph{privacy for free} asymptotically as T→∞. Our techniques -- which could be of independent interest -- include privately releasing Bernstein-type exploration bonuses and an improved method for releasing visitation statistics. The same techniques also imply a slightly improved regret bound for the LDP case. 
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  8. Offline reinforcement learning, which aims at optimizing sequential decision-making strategies with historical data, has been extensively applied in real-life applications. State-Of-The-Art algorithms usually leverage powerful function approximators (e.g. neural networks) to alleviate the sample complexity hurdle for better empirical performances. Despite the successes, a more systematic under- standing of the statistical complexity for function approximation remains lacking. Towards bridging the gap, we take a step by considering offline reinforcement learning with differentiable function class approximation (DFA). This function class naturally incorporates a wide range of models with nonlinear/nonconvex structures. We show offline RL with differentiable function approximation is provably efficient by analyzing the pessimistic fitted Q-learning (PFQL) algorithm, and our results provide the theoretical basis for understanding a variety of practical heuristics that rely on Fitted Q-Iteration style design. In addition, we further im- prove our guarantee with a tighter instance-dependent characterization. We hope our work could draw interest in studying reinforcement learning with differentiable function approximation beyond the scope of current research. 
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  9. Chaudhuri, Kamalika and (Ed.)
    We study the problem of reinforcement learning (RL) with low (policy) switching cost {—} a problem well-motivated by real-life RL applications in which deployments of new policies are costly and the number of policy updates must be low. In this paper, we propose a new algorithm based on stage-wise exploration and adaptive policy elimination that achieves a regret of $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{H^4S^2AT})$ while requiring a switching cost of $O(HSA \log\log T)$. This is an exponential improvement over the best-known switching cost $O(H^2SA\log T)$ among existing methods with $\widetilde{O}(\mathrm{poly}(H,S,A)\sqrt{T})$ regret. In the above, $S,A$ denotes the number of states and actions in an $H$-horizon episodic Markov Decision Process model with unknown transitions, and $T$ is the number of steps. As a byproduct of our new techniques, we also derive a reward-free exploration algorithm with a switching cost of $O(HSA)$. Furthermore, we prove a pair of information-theoretical lower bounds which say that (1) Any no-regret algorithm must have a switching cost of $\Omega(HSA)$; (2) Any $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{T})$ regret algorithm must incur a switching cost of $\Omega(HSA\log\log T)$. Both our algorithms are thus optimal in their switching costs. 
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