Ideal Abstractions for Decision-Focused Learning
Proceedings of The 26th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 206:10223-10234, 2023.
We present a methodology for formulating simplifying abstractions in machine learning systems by identifying and harnessing the utility structure of decisions. Machine learning tasks commonly involve high-dimensional output spaces (e.g., predictions for every pixel in an image or node in a graph), even though a coarser output would often suffice for downstream decision-making (e.g., regions of an image instead of pixels). Developers often hand-engineer abstractions of the output space, but numerous abstractions are possible and it is unclear how the choice of output space for a model impacts its usefulness in downstream decision-making. We propose a method that configures the output space automatically in order to minimize the loss of decision-relevant information. Taking a geometric perspective, we formulate a step of the algorithm as a projection of the probability simplex, termed fold, that minimizes the total loss of decision-related information in the H-entropy sense. Crucially, learning in the abstracted outcome space requires significantly less data, leading to a net improvement in decision quality. We demonstrate the method in two domains: data acquisition for deep neural network training and a closed-loop wildfire management task.