On the Sublinear Regret of GP-UCB

Published: 21 Sept 2023, Last Modified: 20 Jan 2024NeurIPS 2023 posterEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Keywords: Kernel Bandits, Online Learning, Self-Normalized Concentration, Online Regression
Abstract: In the kernelized bandit problem, a learner aims to sequentially compute the optimum of a function lying in a reproducing kernel Hilbert space given only noisy evaluations at sequentially chosen points. In particular, the learner aims to minimize regret, which is a measure of the suboptimality of the choices made. Arguably the most popular algorithm is the Gaussian Process Upper Confidence Bound (GP-UCB) algorithm, which involves acting based on a simple linear estimator of the unknown function. Despite its popularity, existing analyses of GP-UCB give a suboptimal regret rate, which fails to be sublinear for many commonly used kernels such as the Matern kernel. This has led to a longstanding open question: are existing regret analyses for GP-UCB tight, or can bounds be improved by using more sophisticated analytical techniques? In this work, we resolve this open question and show that GP-UCB enjoys nearly optimal regret. In particular, our results yield sublinear regret rates for the Matern kernel, improving over the state-of-the-art analyses and partially resolving a COLT open problem posed by Vakili et al. Our improvements rely on a key technical contribution --- regularizing kernel ridge estimators in proportion to the smoothness of the underlying kernel $k$. Applying this key idea together with a largely overlooked concentration result in separable Hilbert spaces (for which we provide an independent, simplified derivation), we are able to provide a tighter analysis of the GP-UCB algorithm.
Supplementary Material: zip
Submission Number: 8871