High-Dimensional Contextual Policy Search with Unknown Context Rewards using Bayesian Optimization

Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS)


Contextual policies are used in many settings to customize system parameters and actions to the specifics of a particular setting. In some real-world settings, such as randomized controlled trials or A/B tests, it may not be possible to measure policy outcomes at the level of context—we observe only aggregate rewards across a distribution of contexts. This makes policy optimization much more difficult because we must solve a high-dimensional optimization problem over the entire space of contextual policies, for which existing optimization methods are not suitable. We develop effective models that leverage the structure of the search space to enable contextual policy optimization directly from the aggregate rewards using Bayesian optimization. We use a collection of simulation studies to characterize the performance and robustness of the models, and show that our approach of inferring a low-dimensional context embedding performs best. Finally, we show successful contextual policy optimization in a real-world video bitrate policy problem.

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