Mondrian Forests for Large-Scale Regression when Uncertainty Matters

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Balaji Lakshminarayanan, Daniel M. Roy, Yee Whye Teh ;
Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 51:1478-1487, 2016.

Abstract

Many real-world regression problems demand a measure of the uncertainty associated with each prediction. Standard decision forests deliver efficient state-of-the-art predictive performance, but high-quality uncertainty estimates are lacking. Gaussian processes (GPs) deliver uncertainty estimates, but scaling GPs to large-scale data sets comes at the cost of approximating the uncertainty estimates. We extend Mondrian forests, first proposed by Lakshminarayanan et al. (2014) for classification problems, to the large-scale nonparametric regression setting. Using a novel hierarchical Gaussian prior that dovetails with the Mondrian forest framework, we obtain principled uncertainty estimates, while still retaining the computational advantages of decision forests. Through a combination of illustrative examples, real-world large-scale datasets and Bayesian optimization benchmarks, we demonstrate that Mondrian forests outperform approximate GPs on large-scale regression tasks and deliver better-calibrated uncertainty assessments than decision-forest-based methods.

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