Using Confidence Bounds for Exploitation-Exploration Trade-offs

Peter Auer; 3(Nov):397-422, 2002.


We show how a standard tool from statistics --- namely confidence bounds --- can be used to elegantly deal with situations which exhibit an exploitation-exploration trade-off. Our technique for designing and analyzing algorithms for such situations is general and can be applied when an algorithm has to make exploitation-versus-exploration decisions based on uncertain information provided by a random process.

We apply our technique to two models with such an exploitation-exploration trade-off. For the adversarial bandit problem with shifting our new algorithm suffers only O((ST)1/2) regret with high probability over T trials with S shifts. Such a regret bound was previously known only in expectation. The second model we consider is associative reinforcement learning with linear value functions. For this model our technique improves the regret from O(T3/4) to O(T1/2).

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