Finite-Time Analysis of Decentralized Stochastic Approximation with Applications in Multi-Agent and Multi-Task Learning

10/28/2020 ∙ by Sihan Zeng, et al. ∙ 0

Stochastic approximation, a data-driven approach for finding the fixed point of an unknown operator, provides a unified framework for treating many problems in stochastic optimization and reinforcement learning. Motivated by a growing interest in multi-agent and multi-task learning, we consider in this paper a decentralized variant of stochastic approximation. A network of agents, each with their own unknown operator and data observations, cooperatively find the fixed point of the aggregate operator. The agents work by running a local stochastic approximation algorithm using noisy samples from their operators while averaging their iterates with their neighbors' on a decentralized communication graph. Our main contribution provides a finite-time analysis of this decentralized stochastic approximation algorithm and characterizes the impacts of the underlying communication topology between agents. Our model for the data observed at each agent is that it is sampled from a Markov processes; this lack of independence makes the iterates biased and (potentially) unbounded. Under mild assumptions on the Markov processes, we show that the convergence rate of the proposed methods is essentially the same as if the samples were independent, differing only by a log factor that represents the mixing time of the Markov process. We also present applications of the proposed method on a number of interesting learning problems in multi-agent systems, including a decentralized variant of Q-learning for solving multi-task reinforcement learning.

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