Information Avoidance and Overvaluation in Sequential Decision Making under Epistemic Constraints

Shuo Li, Matteo Pozzi

Decision makers involved in the management of civil assets and systems usually take actions under constraints imposed by societal regulations. Some of these constraints are related to epistemic quantities, as the probability of failure events and the corresponding risks. Sensors and inspectors can provide useful information supporting the control process (e.g. the maintenance process of an asset), and decisions about collecting this information should rely on an analysis of its cost and value. When societal regulations encode an economic perspective that is not aligned with that of the decision makers, the Value of Information (VoI) can be negative (i.e., information sometimes hurts), and almost irrelevant information can even have a significant value (either positive or negative), for agents acting under these epistemic constraints. We refer to these phenomena as Information Avoidance (IA) and Information OverValuation (IOV). In this paper, we illustrate how to assess VoI in sequential decision making under epistemic constraints (as those imposed by societal regulations), by modeling a Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDP) and evaluating non optimal policies via Finite State Controllers (FSCs). We focus on the value of collecting information at current time, and on that of collecting sequential information, we illustrate how these values are related and we discuss how IA and IOV can occur in those settings.

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