A Minimax Approach to Supervised Learning

Given a task of predicting $Y$ from $X$, a loss function $L$, and a set of probability distributions $\Gamma$ on $(X,Y)$, what is the optimal decision rule minimizing the worst-case expected loss over $\Gamma$? In this paper, we address this question by introducing a generalization of the principle of maximum entropy... Applying this principle to sets of distributions with marginal on $X$ constrained to be the empirical marginal from the data, we develop a general minimax approach for supervised learning problems. While for some loss functions such as squared-error and log loss, the minimax approach rederives well-knwon regression models, for the 0-1 loss it results in a new linear classifier which we call the maximum entropy machine. The maximum entropy machine minimizes the worst-case 0-1 loss over the structured set of distribution, and by our numerical experiments can outperform other well-known linear classifiers such as SVM. We also prove a bound on the generalization worst-case error in the minimax approach. read more

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