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Event Series Event Series: Special Seminar Series

Optimal methods for reinforcement learning: Efficient algorithms with instance-dependent guarantees | Wenlong Mou

March 16, 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Abstract: Reinforcement learning (RL) is a pillar for modern artificial intelligence. Compared to classical statistical learning, several new statistical and computational phenomena arise from RL problems, leading to different trade-offs in the choice of the estimators, tuning of their parameters, and the design of efficient algorithms. In many settings, asymptotic and/or worst-case theory fails to provide the relevant guidance.
In this talk, I present recent advances that involve a more refined approach to RL, one that leads to non-asymptotic and instance-optimal guarantees. The bulk of this talk focuses on function approximation methods for policy evaluation. I establish a novel class of optimal and instance-dependent oracle inequalities for projected Bellman equations, as well as efficient computational algorithms achieving them. Among other results, I will highlight how the instance-optimal guarantees guide the selection of tuning parameters in temporal different methods, and tackle the instability issue with general function classes. Drawing on this perspective, I will also discuss a novel class of stochastic approximation methods that yield optimal statistical guarantees for policy optimization problems.

Bio: Wenlong Mou is a Ph.D. candidate at Department of EECS, UC Berkeley, advised by Martin Wainwright and Peter Bartlett. Prior to Berkeley, he received his B.Sc. degree in Computer Science from Peking University. Wenlong’s research interests include statistics, machine learning theory, dynamic programming and optimization, and applied probability. He is particularly interested in designing optimal statistical methods that enable optimal data-driven decision making, powered by efficient computational algorithms.


March 16, 2023
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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Wenlong Mou


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