Ph.D THESIS PRESENTATION: "Risk-averse Multi-armed Bandit Problem"

In classical multi-armed bandit problem, the aim is to find a policy maximizing the expected total reward, implicitly assuming that the decision maker is risk-neutral. On the other hand, the decision makers are risk-averse in some real life applications. In this study, we design a new setting for the classical multi-armed bandit problem (MAB) based on the concept of dynamic risk measures, where the aim is to find a policy with the best risk adjusted total discounted outcome. We provide theoretical analysis of MAB with respect to this novel setting, and propose two different priority-index heuristics giving risk-averse allocation indices with structures similar to Gittins index. The first proposed heuristic is based on Lagrangian duality and the indices are expressed as the Lagrangian multiplier corresponding to the activation constraint. In the second part, we present a theoretical analysis based on Whittle's retirement problem and propose a generalized version of restart-in-state formulation of the Gittins index to compute the proposed risk-averse allocation indices. Finally, as a practical application of the proposed methods, we focus on optimal design of clinical trials and we apply our risk-averse MAB approach to perform risk-averse treatment allocation based on a Bayesian Bernoulli model. We evaluate the performance of our approach against other allocation rules, including fixed randomization.

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