Theses Doctoral

Flexible Sparse Learning of Feature Subspaces

Ma, Yuting

It is widely observed that the performances of many traditional statistical learning methods degenerate when confronted with high-dimensional data. One promising approach to prevent this downfall is to identify the intrinsic low-dimensional spaces where the true signals embed and to pursue the learning process on these informative feature subspaces. This thesis focuses on the development of flexible sparse learning methods of feature subspaces for classification. Motivated by the success of some existing methods, we aim at learning informative feature subspaces for high-dimensional data of complex nature with better flexibility, sparsity and scalability.
The first part of this thesis is inspired by the success of distance metric learning in casting flexible feature transformations by utilizing local information. We propose a nonlinear sparse metric learning algorithm using a boosting-based nonparametric solution to address metric learning problem for high-dimensional data, named as the sDist algorithm. Leveraged a rank-one decomposition of the symmetric positive semi-definite weight matrix of the Mahalanobis distance metric, we restructure a hard global optimization problem into a forward stage-wise learning of weak learners through a gradient boosting algorithm. In each step, the algorithm progressively learns a sparse rank-one update of the weight matrix by imposing an L-1 regularization. Nonlinear feature mappings are adaptively learned by a hierarchical expansion of interactions integrated within the boosting framework. Meanwhile, an early stopping rule is imposed to control the overall complexity of the learned metric. As a result, without relying on computationally intensive tools, our approach automatically guarantees three desirable properties of the final metric: positive semi-definiteness, low rank and element-wise sparsity. Numerical experiments show that our learning model compares favorably with the state-of-the-art methods in the current literature of metric learning.
The second problem arises from the observation of high instability and feature selection bias when applying online methods to highly sparse data of large dimensionality for sparse learning problem. Due to the heterogeneity in feature sparsity, existing truncation-based methods incur slow convergence and high variance. To mitigate this problem, we introduce a stabilized truncated stochastic gradient descent algorithm. We employ a soft-thresholding scheme on the weight vector where the imposed shrinkage is adaptive to the amount of information available in each feature. The variability in the resulted sparse weight vector is further controlled by stability selection integrated with the informative truncation. To facilitate better convergence, we adopt an annealing strategy on the truncation rate. We show that, when the true parameter space is of low dimension, the stabilization with annealing strategy helps to achieve lower regret bound in expectation.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Zheng, Tian
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 23, 2017