Regret Minimization with Noisy Observations

by   Mohammad Mahdian, et al.

In a typical optimization problem, the task is to pick one of a number of options with the lowest cost or the highest value. In practice, these cost/value quantities often come through processes such as measurement or machine learning, which are noisy, with quantifiable noise distributions. To take these noise distributions into account, one approach is to assume a prior for the values, use it to build a posterior, and then apply standard stochastic optimization to pick a solution. However, in many practical applications, such prior distributions may not be available. In this paper, we study such scenarios using a regret minimization model. In our model, the task is to pick the highest one out of n values. The values are unknown and chosen by an adversary, but can be observed through noisy channels, where additive noises are stochastically drawn from known distributions. The goal is to minimize the regret of our selection, defined as the expected difference between the highest and the selected value on the worst-case choices of values. We show that the naïve algorithm of picking the highest observed value has regret arbitrarily worse than the optimum, even when n = 2 and the noises are unbiased in expectation. On the other hand, we propose an algorithm which gives a constant-approximation to the optimal regret for any n. Our algorithm is conceptually simple, computationally efficient, and requires only minimal knowledge of the noise distributions.


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