Reinforcement Learning for the Knapsack Problem
by Maximillian Kronmueler/
Combinatorial optimization (CO) problems are at the heart of both practical and theoretical research. Due to their complexity, many problems cannot be solved via exact methods in reasonable time; hence, we resort to heuristic solution methods. In recent years, machine learning (ML) has brought immense benefits in many research areas, including heuristic solution methods for CO problems. Among ML methods, reinforcement learning (RL) seems to be the most promising method to find good solutions for CO problems. In this work, we investigate an RL framework, whose agent is based on self-attention, to achieve solutions for the knapsack problem, which is a CO problem. Our algorithm finds close to optimal solutions for instances up to one hundred items, which leads to conjecture that RL and self-attention may be major building blocks for future state-of-the-art heuristics for other CO problems.