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Reward Maximization Under Uncertainty: Leveraging Side-Observations on Networks

Swapna Buccapatnam, Fang Liu, Atilla Eryilmaz, Ness B. Shroff; 18(216):1−34, 2018.


We study the stochastic multi-armed bandit (MAB) problem in the presence of side-observations across actions that occur as a result of an underlying network structure. In our model, a bipartite graph captures the relationship between actions and a common set of unknowns such that choosing an action reveals observations for the unknowns that it is connected to. This models a common scenario in online social networks where users respond to their friends' activity, thus providing side information about each other's preferences. Our contributions are as follows: 1) We derive an asymptotic lower bound (with respect to time) as a function of the bi-partite network structure on the regret of any uniformly good policy that achieves the maximum long-term average reward. 2) We propose two policies - a randomized policy; and a policy based on the well- known upper confidence bound (UCB) policies - both of which explore each action at a rate that is a function of its network position. We show, under mild assumptions, that these policies achieve the asymptotic lower bound on the regret up to a multiplicative factor, independent of the network structure. Finally, we use numerical examples on a real-world social network and a routing example network to demonstrate the benefits obtained by our policies over other existing policies.

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