Forward-Backward Greedy Algorithms for General Convex Smooth Functions over A Cardinality Constraint


Ji Liu, Jieping Ye, Ryohei Fujimaki ;
Proceedings of the 31st International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 32(1):503-511, 2014.


We consider forward-backward greedy algorithms for solving sparse feature selection problems with general convex smooth functions. A state-of-the-art greedy method, the Forward-Backward greedy algorithm (FoBa-obj) requires to solve a large number of optimization problems, thus it is not scalable for large-size problems. The FoBa-gdt algorithm, which uses the gradient information for feature selection at each forward iteration, significantly improves the efficiency of FoBa-obj. In this paper, we systematically analyze the theoretical properties of both algorithms. Our main contributions are: 1) We derive better theoretical bounds than existing analyses regarding FoBa-obj for general smooth convex functions; 2) We show that FoBa-gdt achieves the same theoretical performance as FoBa-obj under the same condition: restricted strong convexity condition. Our new bounds are consistent with the bounds of a special case (least squares) and fills a previously existing theoretical gap for general convex smooth functions; 3) We show that the restricted strong convexity condition is satisfied if the number of independent samples is more than \bark\log d where \bark is the sparsity number and d is the dimension of the variable; 4) We apply FoBa-gdt (with the conditional random field objective) to the sensor selection problem for human indoor activity recognition and our results show that FoBa-gdt outperforms other methods based on forward greedy selection and L1-regularization.

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