Optimal best arm selection for general distributions

08/24/2019 ∙ by Shubhada Agrawal, et al. ∙ 0

Given a finite set of unknown distributions or arms that can be sampled from, we consider the problem of identifying the one with the largest mean using a delta-correct algorithm (an adaptive, sequential algorithm that restricts the probability of error to a specified delta) that has minimum sample complexity. Lower bounds for delta-correct algorithms are well known. Further, delta-correct algorithms that match the lower bound asymptotically as delta reduces to zero have also been developed in literature when the arm distributions are restricted to a single parameter exponential family. In this paper, we first observe a negative result that some restrictions are essential as otherwise under a delta-correct algorithm, distributions with unbounded support would require an infinite number of samples in expectation. We then propose a delta-correct algorithm that matches the lower bound as delta reduces to zero under a mild restriction that a known bound on the expectation of a non-negative, increasing convex function (for example, the squared moment) of underlying random variables, exists. We also propose batch processing and identify optimal batch sizes to substantially speed up the proposed algorithm. This best arm selection problem is a well studied classic problem in the simulation community. It has many learning applications including in recommendation systems and in product selection.

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