A Few Expert Queries Suffices for Sample-Efficient RL with Resets and Linear Value Approximation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Philip Amortila, Nan Jiang, Dhruv Madeka, Dean P. Foster


The current paper studies sample-efficient Reinforcement Learning (RL) in settings where only the optimal value function is assumed to be linearly-realizable. It has recently been understood that, even under this seemingly strong assumption and access to a generative model, worst-case sample complexities can be prohibitively (i.e., exponentially) large. We investigate the setting where the learner additionally has access to interactive demonstrations from an expert policy, and we present a statistically and computationally efficient algorithm (Delphi) for blending exploration with expert queries. In particular, Delphi requires $\tilde O(d)$ expert queries and a $\texttt{poly}(d,H,|A|,1/\varepsilon)$ amount of exploratory samples to provably recover an $\varepsilon$-suboptimal policy. Compared to pure RL approaches, this corresponds to an exponential improvement in sample complexity with surprisingly-little expert input. Compared to prior imitation learning (IL) approaches, our required number of expert demonstrations is independent of $H$ and logarithmic in $1/\varepsilon$, whereas all prior work required at least linear factors of both in addition to the same dependence on $d$. Towards establishing the minimal amount of expert queries needed, we show that, in the same setting, any learner whose exploration budget is \textit{polynomially-bounded} (in terms of $d,H,$ and $|A|$) will require \textit{at least} $\tilde\Omega(\sqrt{d})$ oracle calls to recover a policy competing with the expert's value function. Under the weaker assumption that the expert's policy is linear, we show that the lower bound increases to $\tilde\Omega(d)$.