Semi-Bandit Learning for Monotone Stochastic Optimization

24 Dec 2023  ·  Arpit Agarwal, Rohan Ghuge, Viswanath Nagarajan ·

Stochastic optimization is a widely used approach for optimization under uncertainty, where uncertain input parameters are modeled by random variables. Exact or approximation algorithms have been obtained for several fundamental problems in this area. However, a significant limitation of this approach is that it requires full knowledge of the underlying probability distributions. Can we still get good (approximation) algorithms if these distributions are unknown, and the algorithm needs to learn them through repeated interactions? In this paper, we resolve this question for a large class of "monotone" stochastic problems, by providing a generic online learning algorithm with $\sqrt{T \log T}$ regret relative to the best approximation algorithm (under known distributions). Importantly, our online algorithm works in a semi-bandit setting, where in each period, the algorithm only observes samples from the r.v.s that were actually probed. Our framework applies to several fundamental problems in stochastic optimization such as prophet inequality, Pandora's box, stochastic knapsack, stochastic matchings and stochastic submodular optimization.

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