Keywords: restless bandits, Whittle index, deep reinforcement learning
TL;DR: New deep RL algorithm for learning the Whittle index of a restless arm independently of other arms.
Abstract: Whittle index policy is a powerful tool to obtain asymptotically optimal solutions for the notoriously intractable problem of restless bandits. However, finding the Whittle indices remains a difficult problem for many practical restless bandits with convoluted transition kernels. This paper proposes NeurWIN, a neural Whittle index network that seeks to learn the Whittle indices for any restless bandits by leveraging mathematical properties of the Whittle indices. We show that a neural network that produces the Whittle index is also one that produces the optimal control for a set of Markov decision problems. This property motivates using deep reinforcement learning for the training of NeurWIN. We demonstrate the utility of NeurWIN by evaluating its performance for three recently studied restless bandit problems. Our experiment results show that the performance of NeurWIN is significantly better than other RL algorithms.
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