Sample Complexity of Policy Search with Known Dynamics

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 19 (NIPS 2006)

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Peter Bartlett, Ambuj Tewari


We consider methods that try to find a good policy for a Markov decision process by choosing one from a given class. The policy is chosen based on its empirical performance in simulations. We are interested in conditions on the complexity of the policy class that ensure the success of such simulation based policy search methods. We show that under bounds on the amount of computation involved in computing policies, transition dynamics and rewards, uniform convergence of empirical estimates to true value functions occurs. Previously, such results were derived by assuming boundedness of pseudodimension and Lipschitz continuity. These assumptions and ours are both stronger than the usual combinatorial complexity measures. We show, via minimax inequalities, that this is essential: boundedness of pseudodimension or fat-shattering dimension alone is not sufficient.