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Proceedings Article

Non-parametric Approximate Dynamic Programming via the Kernel Method

03 Dec 2012-Vol. 25, pp 386-394

TL;DR: A novel non-parametric approximate dynamic programming (ADP) algorithm that enjoys graceful approximation and sample complexity guarantees and can serve as a viable alternative to state-of-the-art parametric ADP algorithms.

AbstractThis paper presents a novel non-parametric approximate dynamic programming (ADP) algorithm that enjoys graceful approximation and sample complexity guarantees. In particular, we establish both theoretically and computationally that our proposal can serve as a viable alternative to state-of-the-art parametric ADP algorithms, freeing the designer from carefully specifying an approximation architecture. We accomplish this by developing a kernel-based mathematical program for ADP. Via a computational study on a controlled queueing network, we show that our procedure is competitive with parametric ADP approaches.

Topics: Parametric statistics (55%), Kernel (statistics) (53%), Kernel method (53%), Dynamic programming (51%)

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Abstract: We consider model-free reinforcement learning for infinite-horizon discounted Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) with a continuous state space and unknown transition kernel, when only a single sample path under an arbitrary policy of the system is available. We consider the Nearest Neighbor Q-Learning (NNQL) algorithm to learn the optimal Q function using nearest neighbor regression method. As the main contribution, we provide tight finite sample analysis of the convergence rate. In particular, for MDPs with a $d$-dimensional state space and the discounted factor $\gamma \in (0,1)$, given an arbitrary sample path with "covering time" $ L $, we establish that the algorithm is guaranteed to output an $\varepsilon$-accurate estimate of the optimal Q-function using $\tilde{O}\big(L/(\varepsilon^3(1-\gamma)^7)\big)$ samples. For instance, for a well-behaved MDP, the covering time of the sample path under the purely random policy scales as $ \tilde{O}\big(1/\varepsilon^d\big),$ so the sample complexity scales as $\tilde{O}\big(1/\varepsilon^{d+3}\big).$ Indeed, we establish a lower bound that argues that the dependence of $ \tilde{\Omega}\big(1/\varepsilon^{d+2}\big)$ is necessary.

43 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: An algorithm that turns KBRL into a practical reinforcement learning tool that significantly outperforms other state-of-the-art reinforcement learning algorithms on the tasks studied and derive upper bounds for the distance between the value functions computed by KBRL and KBSF using the same data.
Abstract: Kernel-based reinforcement learning (KBRL) stands out among approximate reinforcement learning algorithms for its strong theoretical guarantees. By casting the learning problem as a local kernel approximation, KBRL provides a way of computing a decision policy which converges to a unique solution and is statistically consistent. Unfortunately, the model constructed by KBRL grows with the number of sample transitions, resulting in a computational cost that precludes its application to large-scale or on-line domains. In this paper we introduce an algorithm that turns KBRL into a practical reinforcement learning tool. Kernel-based stochastic factorization (KBSF) builds on a simple idea: when a transition probability matrix is represented as the product of two stochastic matrices, one can swap the factors of the multiplication to obtain another transition matrix, potentially much smaller than the original, which retains some fundamental properties of its precursor. KBSF exploits such an insight to compress the information contained in KBRL's model into an approximator of fixed size. This makes it possible to build an approximation considering both the difficulty of the problem and the associated computational cost. KBSF's computational complexity is linear in the number of sample transitions, which is the best one can do without discarding data. Moreover, the algorithm's simple mechanics allow for a fully incremental implementation that makes the amount of memory used independent of the number of sample transitions. The result is a kernel-based reinforcement learning algorithm that can be applied to large-scale problems in both off-line and on-line regimes. We derive upper bounds for the distance between the value functions computed by KBRL and KBSF using the same data. We also prove that it is possible to control the magnitude of the variables appearing in our bounds, which means that, given enough computational resources, we can make KBSF's value function as close as desired to the value function that would be computed by KBRL using the same set of sample transitions. The potential of our algorithm is demonstrated in an extensive empirical study in which KBSF is applied to difficult tasks based on real-world data. Not only does KBSF solve problems that had never been solved before, but it also significantly outperforms other state-of-the-art reinforcement learning algorithms on the tasks studied.

30 citations


Cites background from "Non-parametric Approximate Dynamic ..."

  • ...Following a slightly different line of work, Bhat et al. (2012) propose to kernelize the linear programming formulation of dynamic programming....

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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This paper adapt MCTS and RHO to two problems – a problem inspired by tactical wildfire management and a classical problem involving the control of queueing networks – and undertake an extensive computational study comparing the two methods on large scale instances of both problems in terms of both the state and the action spaces.
Abstract: Dynamic resource allocation (DRA) problems constitute an important class of dynamic stochastic optimization problems that arise in many real-world applications. DRA problems are notoriously difficult to solve since they combine stochastic dynamics with intractably large state and action spaces. Although the artificial intelligence and operations research communities have independently proposed two successful frameworks for solving such problems—Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS) and rolling horizon optimization (RHO), respectively—the relative merits of these two approaches are not well understood. In this paper, we adapt MCTS and RHO to two problems – a problem inspired by tactical wildfire management and a classical problem involving the control of queueing networks – and undertake an extensive computational study comparing the two methods on large scale instances of both problems in terms of both the state and the action spaces. Both methods are able to greatly improve on a baseline, problem-specific heuristic. On smaller instances, the MCTS and RHO approaches perform comparably, but RHO outperforms MCTS as the size of the problem increases for a fixed computational budget.

26 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This paper briefly reviews an illustrative set of research utilizing shape constraints in the economics and operations research literature and highlights the methodological innovations and applications with a particular emphasis on utility functions, production economics and sequential decision making applications.
Abstract: Shape constraints, motivated by either application-specific assumptions or existing theory, can be imposed during model estimation to restrict the feasible region of the parameters. Although such restrictions may not provide any benefits in an asymptotic analysis, they often improve finite sample performance of statistical estimators and the computational efficiency of finding near-optimal control policies. This paper briefly reviews an illustrative set of research utilizing shape constraints in the economics and operations research literature. We highlight the methodological innovations and applications, with a particular emphasis on utility functions, production economics and sequential decision making applications.

17 citations


Cites methods from "Non-parametric Approximate Dynamic ..."

  • ...…Farias and Van Roy, 2000; Tsitsiklis and Roy, 1996; Tsitsiklis and Van Roy, 1999; Geramifard et al., 2013), approximate linear programming (De Farias and Van Roy, 2003; De Farias and Van Roy, 2004; Desai et al., 2012a), and nonparametric methods are used (Ormoneit and Sen, 2002; Bhat et al., 2012)....

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Posted Content
TL;DR: A linearly relaxed approximation linear program (LRALP) that has a tractable number of constraints, obtained as positive linear combinations of the original constraints of the ALP is defined.
Abstract: Approximate linear programming (ALP) and its variants have been widely applied to Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) with a large number of states. A serious limitation of ALP is that it has an intractable number of constraints, as a result of which constraint approximations are of interest. In this paper, we define a linearly relaxed approximation linear program (LRALP) that has a tractable number of constraints, obtained as positive linear combinations of the original constraints of the ALP. The main contribution is a novel performance bound for LRALP.

16 citations


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"Non-parametric Approximate Dynamic ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...For certain sets S, Mercer’s theorem provides another important construction of such a Hilbert space. more examples can be found in the text of Scholkopf and Smola (2001)....

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