Model-Agnostic Approaches to Multi-Objective Simultaneous Hyperparameter Tuning and Feature Selection

Binder, Martin, Moosbauer, Julia, Thomas, Janek, Bischl, Bernd Machine Learning 

Highly non-linear machine learning algorithms have the capacity to handle large, complex datasets. However, the predictive performance of a model usually critically depends on the choice of multiple hyperparameters. Optimizing these (often) constitutes an expensive black-box problem. Model-based optimization is one state-of-the-art method to address this problem. Furthermore, resulting models often lack interpretability, as models usually contain many active features with non-linear effects and higher-order interactions. One model-agnostic way to enhance interpretability is to enforce sparse solutions through feature selection. It is in many applications desirable to forego a small drop in performance for a substantial gain in sparseness, leading to a natural treatment of feature selection as a multi-objective optimization task. Despite the practical relevance of both hyperparameter optimization and feature selection, they are often carried out separately from each other, which is neither efficient, nor does it take possible interactions between hyperparameters and selected features into account. We present, discuss and compare two algorithmically different approaches for joint and multi-objective hyperparameter optimization and feature selection: The first uses multi-objective model-based optimization to tune a feature filter ensemble. The second is an evolutionary NSGA-II-based wrapper-approach to feature selection which incorporates specialized sampling, mutation and recombination operators for the joint decision space of included features and hyperparameter settings. We compare and discuss the approaches on a variety of benchmark tasks. While model-based optimization needs fewer objective evaluations to achieve good performance, it incurs significant overhead compared to the NSGA-II-based approach. The preferred choice depends on the cost of training the ML model on the given data.

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