Generalized and Scalable Optimal Sparse Decision Trees

Jul 12, 2020



Decision tree optimization is notoriously difficult from a computational perspective but essential for the field of interpretable machine learning. Despite efforts over the past 40 years, only recently have optimization breakthroughs been made that have allowed practical algorithms to find optimal decision trees. These new techniques have the potential to trigger a paradigm shift, where, it is possible to construct sparse decision trees to efficiently optimize a variety of objective functions, without relying on greedy splitting and pruning heuristics that often lead to suboptimal solutions. The contribution in this work is to provide a general framework for decision tree optimization that addresses the two significant open problems in the area: treatment of imbalanced data and fully optimizing over continuous variables. We present techniques that produce optimal decision trees over variety of objectives including F-score, AUC, and partial area under the ROC convex hull. We also introduce a scalable algorithm that produces provably optimal results in the presence of continuous variables and speeds up decision tree construction by several order of magnitude relative to the state-of-the art.



About ICML 2020

The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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