One More Step Towards Reality: Cooperative Bandits with Imperfect Communication

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Udari Madhushani, Abhimanyu Dubey, Naomi Leonard, Alex Pentland


The cooperative bandit problem is increasingly becoming relevant due to its applications in large-scale decision-making. However, most research for this problem focuses exclusively on the setting with perfect communication, whereas in most real-world distributed settings, communication is often over stochastic networks, with arbitrary corruptions and delays. In this paper, we study cooperative bandit learning under three typical real-world communication scenarios, namely, (a) message-passing over stochastic time-varying networks, (b) instantaneous reward-sharing over a network with random delays, and (c) message-passing with adversarially corrupted rewards, including byzantine communication. For each of these environments, we propose decentralized algorithms that achieve competitive performance, along with near-optimal guarantees on the incurred group regret as well. Furthermore, in the setting with perfect communication, we present an improved delayed-update algorithm that outperforms the existing state-of-the-art on various network topologies. Finally, we present tight network-dependent minimax lower bounds on the group regret. Our proposed algorithms are straightforward to implement and obtain competitive empirical performance.