Randomized Gradient Boosting Machine

Gradient Boosting Machine (GBM) introduced by Friedman is a powerful supervised learning algorithm that is very widely used in practice---it routinely features as a leading algorithm in machine learning competitions such as Kaggle and the KDDCup. In spite of the usefulness of GBM in practice, our current theoretical understanding of this method is rather limited. In this work, we propose Randomized Gradient Boosting Machine (RGBM) which leads to substantial computational gains compared to GBM, by using a randomization scheme to reduce search in the space of weak-learners. We derive novel computational guarantees for RGBM. We also provide a principled guideline towards better step-size selection in RGBM that does not require a line search. Our proposed framework is inspired by a special variant of coordinate descent that combines the benefits of randomized coordinate descent and greedy coordinate descent; and may be of independent interest as an optimization algorithm. As a special case, our results for RGBM lead to superior computational guarantees for GBM. Our computational guarantees depend upon a curious geometric quantity that we call Minimal Cosine Angle, which relates to the density of weak-learners in the prediction space. On a series of numerical experiments on real datasets, we demonstrate the effectiveness of RGBM over GBM in terms of obtaining a model with good training and/or testing data fidelity with a fraction of the computational cost.

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