Post-Estimation Smoothing: A Simple Baseline for Learning with Side Information

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Esther Rolf, Michael I. Jordan, Benjamin Recht ;
Proceedings of the Twenty Third International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 108:1759-1769, 2020.

Abstract

Observational data are often accompanied by natural structural indices, such as time stamps or geographic locations, which are meaningful to prediction tasks but are often discarded. We leverage semantically meaningful indexing data while ensuring robustness to potentially uninformative or misleading indices. We propose a post-estimation smoothing operator as a fast and effective method for incorporating structural index data into prediction. Because the smoothing step is separate from the original predictor, it applies to a broad class of machine learning tasks, with no need to retrain models. Our theoretical analysis details simple conditions under which post-estimation smoothing will improve accuracy over that of the original predictor. Our experiments on large scale spatial and temporal datasets highlight the speed and accuracy of post-estimation smoothing in practice. Together, these results illuminate a novel way to consider and incorporate the natural structure of index variables in machine learning.

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