Carnegie Mellon University

Electrical and Computer Engineering

College of Engineering

Course Information

18-813B: Special Topics in Artificial Intelligence: Foundations of Reinforcement Learning




Reinforcement learning (RL), which is modeled as sequential decision making in the face of uncertainty, has garnered growing interest in recent years due to its remarkable success in practice. However, the explosion of complexity in emerging applications and the presence of nonconvexity exacerbate the challenge of achieving efficient RL in resource-constrained situations, where data collection and computation is expensive, time-consuming, or even high-stakes (e.g., in clinical trials, autonomous systems, and online advertising). Despite decades-long research efforts, however, the theoretical underpinnings of RL remain far from mature, especially when it comes to understanding and enhancing the sample and computational efficiencies of RL algorithms. An explosion of research has been conducted over the past few years towards advancing the frontiers of these topics, which leverage toolkits that sit at the intersection of multiple fields, including but not limited to control, optimization, statistics and learning. This course aims to present a coherent framework that covers important algorithmic developments in modern RL, highlighting the connections between new ideas and classical topics. Employing Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) as the central mathematical framework, we will cover multiple important scenarios including but not limited to the simulator setting, online RL, offline RL, and multi-agent RL, gravitating our discussions around issues such as sample complexity, computational efficiency, function approximation, distributional robustness, as well as information-theoretic and algorithmic-dependent lower bounds.

Last Modified: 2022-09-27 11:55AM

Semesters offered:

  • Spring 2023