Dynamic Memory for Interpretable Sequential Optimization
AuthorsSrivas Chennu*, Andrew Maher*, Jamie Martin*, Subash Prabhanantham*
Real-world applications of reinforcement learning for recommendation and experimentation faces a practical challenge: the relative reward of different bandit arms can evolve over the lifetime of the learning agent. To deal with these non-stationary cases, the agent must forget some historical knowledge, as it may no longer be relevant to minimise regret. We present a solution to handling non-stationarity that is suitable for deployment at scale, to provide business operators with automated adaptive optimisation. Our solution aims to provide interpretable learning that can be trusted by humans, whilst responding to non-stationarity to minimise regret. To this end, we develop an adaptive Bayesian learning agent that employs a novel form of dynamic memory. It enables interpretability through statistical hypothesis testing, by targeting a set point of statistical power when comparing rewards and adjusting its memory dynamically to achieve this power. By design, the agent is agnostic to different kinds of non-stationarity. Using numerical simulations, we compare its performance against an existing proposal and show that, under multiple non-stationary scenarios, our agent correctly adapts to real changes in the true rewards. In all bandit solutions, there is an explicit trade-off between learning and achieving maximal performance. Our solution sits on a different point on this trade-off when compared to another similarly robust approach: we prioritise interpretability, which relies on more learning, at the cost of some regret. We describe the architecture of a large-scale deployment of automatic optimisation-as-a-service where our agent achieves interpretability whilst adapting to changing circumstances.