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Garbage In, Reward Out: Bootstrapping Exploration in Multi-Armed Bandits

Branislav Kveton
Sharan Vaswani
Zheng Wen
Mohammad Ghavamzadeh
Tor Lattimore
36th International Conference on Machine Learning (2019)


We propose a bandit algorithm that explores by randomizing its history of rewards. Specifically, it pulls the arm with the highest mean reward in a non-parametric bootstrap sample of its history with pseudo rewards. We design the pseudo rewards such that the bootstrap mean is optimistic with a sufficiently high probability. We call our algorithm Giro, which stands for garbage in, reward out. We analyze Giro in a Bernoulli bandit and derive a $O(K \Delta^{-1} \log n)$ bound on its $n$-round regret, where $\Delta$ is the difference in the expected rewards of the optimal and the best suboptimal arms, and $K$ is the number of arms. The main advantage of our exploration design is that it easily generalizes to structured problems. To show this, we propose contextual Giro with an arbitrary reward generalization model. We evaluate Giro and its contextual variant on multiple synthetic and real-world problems, and observe that it performs well.

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