Timezone: »

Learning MDPs from Features: Predict-Then-Optimize for Sequential Decision Making by Reinforcement Learning
Kai Wang · Sanket Shah · Haipeng Chen · Andrew Perrault · Finale Doshi-Velez · Milind Tambe

Tue Dec 07 08:30 AM -- 10:00 AM (PST) @

In the predict-then-optimize framework, the objective is to train a predictive model, mapping from environment features to parameters of an optimization problem, which maximizes decision quality when the optimization is subsequently solved. Recent work on decision-focused learning shows that embedding the optimization problem in the training pipeline can improve decision quality and help generalize better to unseen tasks compared to relying on an intermediate loss function for evaluating prediction quality. We study the predict-then-optimize framework in the context of sequential decision problems (formulated as MDPs) that are solved via reinforcement learning. In particular, we are given environment features and a set of trajectories from training MDPs, which we use to train a predictive model that generalizes to unseen test MDPs without trajectories. Two significant computational challenges arise in applying decision-focused learning to MDPs: (i) large state and action spaces make it infeasible for existing techniques to differentiate through MDP problems, and (ii) the high-dimensional policy space, as parameterized by a neural network, makes differentiating through a policy expensive. We resolve the first challenge by sampling provably unbiased derivatives to approximate and differentiate through optimality conditions, and the second challenge by using a low-rank approximation to the high-dimensional sample-based derivatives. We implement both Bellman-based and policy gradient-based decision-focused learning on three different MDP problems with missing parameters, and show that decision-focused learning performs better in generalization to unseen tasks.

Author Information

Kai Wang (Harvard University)
Sanket Shah (Harvard University)
Sanket Shah

I am a third-year PhD student at Harvard University advised by Prof. Milind Tambe. My current work focuses on Decision-Focused Learning, a paradigm for tailoring a predictive model for a downstream optimization task that uses its predictions.

Haipeng Chen (Dartmouth College)
Andrew Perrault (Harvard University)
Finale Doshi-Velez (Harvard)
Milind Tambe (Harvard University/Google Research India)

Related Events (a corresponding poster, oral, or spotlight)

More from the Same Authors