Asymptotically Efficient Off-Policy Evaluation for Tabular Reinforcement Learning

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Ming Yin, Yu-Xiang Wang ;
Proceedings of the Twenty Third International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 108:3948-3958, 2020.

Abstract

We consider the problem of off-policy evaluation for reinforcement learning, where the goal is to estimate the expected reward of a target policy $\pi$ using offline data collected by running a logging policy $\mu$. Standard importance-sampling based approaches for this problem suffer from a variance that scales exponentially with time horizon $H$, which motivates a splurge of recent interest in alternatives that break the "Curse of Horizon" (Liu et al. 2018, Xie et al. 2019). In particular, it was shown that a marginalized importance sampling (MIS) approach can be used to achieve an estimation error of order $O(H^3/ n)$ in mean square error (MSE) under an episodic Markov Decision Process model with finite states and potentially infinite actions. The MSE bound however is still a factor of $H$ away from a Cramer-Rao lower bound of order $\Omega(H^2/n)$. In this paper, we prove that with a simple modification to the MIS estimator, we can asymptotically attain the Cramer-Rao lower bound, provided that the action space is finite. We also provide a general method for constructing MIS estimators with high-probability error bounds.

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