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A Reduction-Based Framework for Conservative Bandits and Reinforcement Learning

Yunchang Yang · Tianhao Wu · Han Zhong · Evrard Garcelon · Matteo Pirotta · Alessandro Lazaric · Liwei Wang · Simon Du

Keywords: [ lower bound ] [ bandits ] [ Reinforcement learning theory ]


We study bandits and reinforcement learning (RL) subject to a conservative constraint where the agent is asked to perform at least as well as a given baseline policy. This setting is particular relevant in real-world domains including digital marketing, healthcare, production, finance, etc. In this paper, we present a reduction-based framework for conservative bandits and RL, in which our core technique is to calculate the necessary and sufficient budget obtained from running the baseline policy. For lower bounds, we improve the existing lower bound for conservative multi-armed bandits and obtain new lower bounds for conservative linear bandits, tabular RL and low-rank MDP, through a black-box reduction that turns a certain lower bound in the nonconservative setting into a new lower bound in the conservative setting. For upper bounds, in multi-armed bandits, linear bandits and tabular RL, our new upper bounds tighten or match existing ones with significantly simpler analyses. We also obtain a new upper bound for conservative low-rank MDP.

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