A Boosting Approach to Reinforcement Learning

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Nataly Brukhim, Elad Hazan, Karan Singh


Reducing reinforcement learning to supervised learning is a well-studied and effective approach that leverages the benefits of compact function approximation to deal with large-scale Markov decision processes. Independently, the boosting methodology (e.g. AdaBoost) has proven to be indispensable in designing efficient and accurate classification algorithms by combining rough and inaccurate rules-of-thumb.In this paper, we take a further step: we reduce reinforcement learning to a sequence of weak learning problems. Since weak learners perform only marginally better than random guesses, such subroutines constitute a weaker assumption than the availability of an accurate supervised learning oracle. We prove that the sample complexity and running time bounds of the proposed method do not explicitly depend on the number of states.While existing results on boosting operate on convex losses, the value function over policies is non-convex. We show how to use a non-convex variant of the Frank-Wolfe method for boosting, that additionally improves upon the known sample complexity and running time bounds even for reductions to supervised learning.