Dimension Reduction in Contextual Online Learning via Nonparametric Variable Selection

Wenhao Li, Ningyuan Chen, L. Jeff Hong.

Year: 2023, Volume: 24, Issue: 136, Pages: 1−84


We consider a contextual online learning (multi-armed bandit) problem with high-dimensional covariate $x$ and decision $y$. The reward function to learn, $f(x,y)$, does not have a particular parametric form. The literature has shown that the optimal regret is $\tilde{O}(T^{(d_x\!+\!d_y\!+\!1)/(d_x\!+\!d_y\!+\!2)})$, where $d_x$ and $d_y$ are the dimensions of $x$ and $y$, and thus it suffers from the curse of dimensionality. In many applications, only a small subset of variables in the covariate affect the value of $f$, which is referred to as sparsity in statistics. To take advantage of the sparsity structure of the covariate, we propose a variable selection algorithm called BV-LASSO, which incorporates novel ideas such as binning and voting to apply LASSO to nonparametric settings. Using it as a subroutine, we can achieve the regret $\tilde{O}(T^{(d_x^*\!+\!d_y\!+\!1)/(d_x^*\!+\!d_y\!+\!2)})$, where $d_x^*$ is the effective covariate dimension. The regret matches the optimal regret when the covariate is $d^*_x$-dimensional and thus cannot be improved. Our algorithm may serve as a general recipe to achieve dimension reduction via variable selection in nonparametric settings.