Discovering, Learning and Exploiting Relevance

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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Cem Tekin, Mihaela van der Schaar


In this paper we consider the problem of learning online what is the information to consider when making sequential decisions. We formalize this as a contextual multi-armed bandit problem where a high dimensional ($D$-dimensional) context vector arrives to a learner which needs to select an action to maximize its expected reward at each time step. Each dimension of the context vector is called a type. We assume that there exists an unknown relation between actions and types, called the relevance relation, such that the reward of an action only depends on the contexts of the relevant types. When the relation is a function, i.e., the reward of an action only depends on the context of a single type, and the expected reward of an action is Lipschitz continuous in the context of its relevant type, we propose an algorithm that achieves $\tilde{O}(T^{\gamma})$ regret with a high probability, where $\gamma=2/(1+\sqrt{2})$. Our algorithm achieves this by learning the unknown relevance relation, whereas prior contextual bandit algorithms that do not exploit the existence of a relevance relation will have $\tilde{O}(T^{(D+1)/(D+2)})$ regret. Our algorithm alternates between exploring and exploiting, it does not require reward observations in exploitations, and it guarantees with a high probability that actions with suboptimality greater than $\epsilon$ are never selected in exploitations. Our proposed method can be applied to a variety of learning applications including medical diagnosis, recommender systems, popularity prediction from social networks, network security etc., where at each instance of time vast amounts of different types of information are available to the decision maker, but the effect of an action depends only on a single type.