Universal Convexification via Risk Aversion

Sandeep K Juneja
Friday, 7 Nov 2014, 14:30 to 15:30
AG-66 (Lecture Theatre)
Abstract: We develop a framework for convexifying a fairly general class of optimization problems. Under additional assumptions, we analyze the suboptimality of the solution to the convexified problem relative to the original nonconvex problem and prove additive approximation guarantees. We then develop algorithms based on stochastic gradient methods to solve the resulting optimization problems and show bounds on convergence rates. We then extend this framework to apply to a general class of discrete-time dynamical systems. In this context, our convexification approach falls under the well-studied paradigm of risk-sensitive Markov Decision Processes. We derive the first known model-based and model-free policy gradient optimization algorithms with guaranteed convergence to the optimal solution. Finally, we present numerical results validating our formulation in different applications.