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Batched Thompson Sampling

Cem Kalkanli · Ayfer Ozgur

Keywords: [ Bandits ] [ Reinforcement Learning and Planning ]

Abstract: We introduce a novel anytime batched Thompson sampling policy for multi-armed bandits where the agent observes the rewards of her actions and adjusts her policy only at the end of a small number of batches. We show that this policy simultaneously achieves a problem dependent regret of order $O(\log(T))$ and a minimax regret of order $O(\sqrt{T\log(T)})$ while the number of batches can be bounded by $O(\log(T))$ independent of the problem instance over a time horizon $T$. We also prove that in expectation the instance dependent batch complexity of our policy is of order $O(\log\log(T))$. These results indicate that Thompson sampling performs competitively with recently proposed algorithms for the batched setting, which optimize the batch structure for a given time horizon $T$ and prioritize exploration in the beginning of the experiment to eliminate suboptimal actions. Unlike these algorithms, the batched Thompson sampling algorithm we propose is an anytime policy, i.e. it operates without the knowledge of the time horizon $T$, and as such it is the only anytime algorithm that achieves optimal regret with $O(\log\log(T))$ expected batch complexity. This is achieved through a dynamic batching strategy, which uses the agents estimates to adaptively increase the batch duration.

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