Leveraging Demonstrations to Improve Online Learning: Quality Matters
Abstract: We investigate the extent to which offline demonstration data can improve online learning. It is natural to expect some improvement, but *the question is how, and by how much?* We show that the degree of improvement must depend on the *quality* of the demonstration data. To generate portable insights, we focus on Thompson sampling (TS) applied to a multi-armed bandit as a prototypical online learning algorithm and model. The demonstration data is generated by an expert with a given *competence* level, a notion we introduce. We propose an informed TS algorithm that utilizes the demonstration data in a coherent way through Bayes' rule and derive a prior-dependent Bayesian regret bound. This offers insight into how pretraining can greatly improve online performance and how the degree of improvement increases with the expert's competence level. We also develop a practical, approximate informed TS algorithm through Bayesian bootstrapping and show substantial empirical regret reduction through experiments.
Submission Number: 55