Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track
Chin Pang Ho, Marek Petrik, Wolfram Wiesemann
In recent years, robust Markov decision processes (MDPs) have emerged as a prominent modeling framework for dynamic decision problems affected by uncertainty. In contrast to classical MDPs, which only account for stochasticity by modeling the dynamics through a stochastic process with a known transition kernel, robust MDPs additionally account for ambiguity by optimizing in view of the most adverse transition kernel from a prescribed ambiguity set. In this paper, we develop a novel solution framework for robust MDPs with $s$-rectangular ambiguity sets that decomposes the problem into a sequence of robust Bellman updates and simplex projections. Exploiting the rich structure present in the simplex projections corresponding to $\phi$-divergence ambiguity sets, we show that the associated $s$-rectangular robust MDPs can be solved substantially faster than with state-of-the-art commercial solvers as well as a recent first-order solution scheme, thus rendering them attractive alternatives to classical MDPs in practical applications.