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Towards Deployment-Efficient Reinforcement Learning: Lower Bound and Optimality

Jiawei Huang · Jinglin Chen · Li Zhao · Tao Qin · Nan Jiang · Tie-Yan Liu

Keywords: [ Reinforcement learning theory ]


Deployment efficiency is an important criterion for many real-world applications of reinforcement learning (RL). Despite the community's increasing interest, there lacks a formal theoretical formulation for the problem. In this paper, we propose such a formulation for deployment-efficient RL (DE-RL) from an ''optimization with constraints'' perspective: we are interested in exploring an MDP and obtaining a near-optimal policy within minimal \emph{deployment complexity}, whereas in each deployment the policy can sample a large batch of data. Using finite-horizon linear MDPs as a concrete structural model, we reveal the fundamental limit in achieving deployment efficiency by establishing information-theoretic lower bounds, and provide algorithms that achieve the optimal deployment efficiency. Moreover, our formulation for DE-RL is flexible and can serve as a building block for other practically relevant settings; we give ''Safe DE-RL'' and ''Sample-Efficient DE-RL'' as two examples, which may be worth future investigation.

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