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Sample-Efficiency in Multi-Batch Reinforcement Learning: The Need for Dimension-Dependent Adaptivity

Emmeran Johnson · Ciara Pike-Burke · Patrick Rebeschini

Halle B #258
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Thu 9 May 1:45 a.m. PDT — 3:45 a.m. PDT

Abstract: We theoretically explore the relationship between sample-efficiency and adaptivity in reinforcement learning. An algorithm is sample-efficient if it uses a number of queries $n$ to the environment that is polynomial in the dimension $d$ of the problem. Adaptivity refers to the frequency at which queries are sent and feedback is processed to update the querying strategy. To investigate this interplay, we employ a learning framework that allows sending queries in $K$ batches, with feedback being processed and queries updated after each batch. This model encompasses the whole adaptivity spectrum, ranging from non-adaptive `offline' ($K=1$) to fully adaptive ($K=n$) scenarios, and regimes in between. For the problems of policy evaluation and best-policy identification under $d$-dimensional linear function approximation, we establish $\Omega(\log \log d)$ lower bounds on the number of batches $K$ required for sample-efficient algorithms with $n = O(poly(d))$ queries. Our results show that just having adaptivity ($K>1$) does not necessarily guarantee sample-efficiency. Notably, the adaptivity-boundary for sample-efficiency is not between offline reinforcement learning ($K=1$), where sample-efficiency was known to not be possible, and adaptive settings. Instead, the boundary lies between different regimes of adaptivity and depends on the problem dimension.

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