Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)
Po-An Wang, Ruo-Chun Tzeng, Alexandre Proutiere
We study the problem of active pure exploration with fixed confidence in generic stochastic bandit environments. The goal of the learner is to answer a query about the environment with a given level of certainty while minimizing her sampling budget. For this problem, instance-specific lower bounds on the expected sample complexity reveal the optimal proportions of arm draws an Oracle algorithm would apply. These proportions solve an optimization problem whose tractability strongly depends on the structural properties of the environment, but may be instrumental in the design of efficient learning algorithms. We devise Frank-Wolfe-based Sampling (FWS), a simple algorithm whose sample complexity matches the lower bounds for a wide class of pure exploration problems. The algorithm is computationally efficient as, to learn and track the optimal proportion of arm draws, it relies on a single iteration of Frank-Wolfe algorithm applied to the lower-bound optimization problem. We apply FWS to various pure exploration tasks, including best arm identification in unstructured, thresholded, linear, and Lipschitz bandits. Despite its simplicity, FWS is competitive compared to state-of-art algorithms.