Tighter Problem-Dependent Regret Bounds in Reinforcement Learning without Domain Knowledge using Value Function Bounds

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Andrea Zanette, Emma Brunskill ;
Proceedings of the 36th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 97:7304-7312, 2019.

Abstract

Strong worst-case performance bounds for episodic reinforcement learning exist but fortunately in practice RL algorithms perform much better than such bounds would predict. Algorithms and theory that provide strong problem-dependent bounds could help illuminate the key features of what makes a RL problem hard and reduce the barrier to using RL algorithms in practice. As a step towards this we derive an algorithm and analysis for finite horizon discrete MDPs with state-of-the-art worst-case regret bounds and substantially tighter bounds if the RL environment has special features but without apriori knowledge of the environment from the algorithm. As a result of our analysis, we also help address an open learning theory question \cite{jiang2018open} about episodic MDPs with a constant upper-bound on the sum of rewards, providing a regret bound function of the number of episodes with no dependence on the horizon.

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