Instance-optimal PAC Algorithms for Contextual Bandits

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Zhaoqi Li, Lillian Ratliff, houssam nassif, Kevin G. Jamieson, Lalit Jain


In the stochastic contextual bandit setting, regret-minimizing algorithms have been extensively researched, but their instance-minimizing best-arm identification counterparts remain seldom studied. In this work, we focus on the stochastic bandit problem in the $(\epsilon,\delta)$-PAC setting: given a policy class $\Pi$ the goal of the learner is to return a policy $\pi\in \Pi$ whose expected reward is within $\epsilon$ of the optimal policy with probability greater than $1-\delta$. We characterize the first instance-dependent PAC sample complexity of contextual bandits through a quantity $\rho_{\Pi}$, and provide matching upper and lower bounds in terms of $\rho_{\Pi}$ for the agnostic and linear contextual best-arm identification settings. We show that no algorithm can be simultaneously minimax-optimal for regret minimization and instance-dependent PAC for best-arm identification. Our main result is a new instance-optimal and computationally efficient algorithm that relies on a polynomial number of calls to a cost-sensitive classification oracle.