Constrained policy optimization for controlled contextual bandit exploration
Contextual bandits are widely used across the industry in many applications such as search engines, dialogue systems, recommendation systems, etc. In such applications, it is often necessary to update the policy regularly as the data distribution changes and new features are being on-boarded frequently. As any new policy deployment directly impacts the user experience, safety in model updates is an important consideration in real-world bandit learning. In this study, we introduce a scalable framework for policy update safety via user-defined constraints, supporting fine-grained exploration targets for individual domains. For example, in a digital voice assistant, we may want to ensure fewer policy deviations in business-critical domains such as shopping, while allocating more exploration budget to domains such as music. Furthermore, we present a novel meta-gradient learning method that is scalable and practical to address this problem. The proposed method adjusts constraint violation penalty terms adaptively through a meta objective that encourages balanced constraint satisfaction across domains. We conduct extensive experiments using data from a real-world conversational AI system on a set of realistic constraint benchmarks. Based on the experimental results, we demonstrate that the proposed approach is capable of achieving the best balance between the policy value and constraint satisfaction rate.