Q-learning with Nearest Neighbors

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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Devavrat Shah, Qiaomin Xie


We consider model-free reinforcement learning for infinite-horizon discounted Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) with a continuous state space and unknown transition kernel, when only a single sample path under an arbitrary policy of the system is available. We consider the Nearest Neighbor Q-Learning (NNQL) algorithm to learn the optimal Q function using nearest neighbor regression method. As the main contribution, we provide tight finite sample analysis of the convergence rate. In particular, for MDPs with a $d$-dimensional state space and the discounted factor $\gamma \in (0,1)$, given an arbitrary sample path with ``covering time'' $L$, we establish that the algorithm is guaranteed to output an $\varepsilon$-accurate estimate of the optimal Q-function using $\Ot(L/(\varepsilon^3(1-\gamma)^7))$ samples. For instance, for a well-behaved MDP, the covering time of the sample path under the purely random policy scales as $\Ot(1/\varepsilon^d),$ so the sample complexity scales as $\Ot(1/\varepsilon^{d+3}).$ Indeed, we establish a lower bound that argues that the dependence of $ \Omegat(1/\varepsilon^{d+2})$ is necessary.