Paper

Recent progress in model selection raises the question of the fundamental limits of these techniques. Under specific scrutiny has been model selection for general contextual bandits with nested policy classes, resulting in a COLT2020 open problem. It asks whether it is possible to obtain simultaneously the optimal single algorithm guarantees over all policies in a nested sequence of policy classes, or if otherwise this is possible for a trade-off $\alpha\in[\frac{1}{2},1)$ between complexity term and time: $\ln(|\Pi_m|)^{1-\alpha}T^\alpha$. We give a disappointing answer to this question. Even in the purely stochastic regime, the desired results are unobtainable. We present a Pareto frontier of up to logarithmic factors matching upper and lower bounds, thereby proving that an increase in the complexity term $\ln(|\Pi_m|)$ independent of $T$ is unavoidable for general policy classes. As a side result, we also resolve a COLT2016 open problem concerning second-order bounds in full-information games.

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