Active Learning for Function Approximation

Sung, Kah Kay, Niyogi, Partha

Neural Information Processing Systems 

We develop a principled strategy to sample a function optimally for function approximation tasks within a Bayesian framework. Using ideas from optimal experiment design, we introduce an objective function (incorporating both bias and variance) to measure the degree ofapproximation, and the potential utility of the data points towards optimizing this objective. We show how the general strategy canbe used to derive precise algorithms to select data for two cases: learning unit step functions and polynomial functions. In particular, we investigate whether such active algorithms can learn the target with fewer examples. We obtain theoretical and empirical resultsto suggest that this is the case. 1 INTRODUCTION AND MOTIVATION Learning from examples is a common supervised learning paradigm that hypothesizes atarget concept given a stream of training examples that describes the concept. In function approximation, example-based learning can be formulated as synthesizing anapproximation function for data sampled from an unknown target function (Poggio and Girosi, 1990). Active learning describes a class of example-based learning paradigms that seeks out new training examples from specific regions of the input space, instead of passively accepting examples from some data generating source. By judiciously selecting ex- 594 KahKay Sung, Parlha Niyogi amples instead of allowing for possible random sampling, active learning techniques can conceivably have faster learning rates and better approximation results than passive learning methods. This paper presents a Bayesian formulation for active learning within the function approximation framework.

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