Value of Information Lattice: Exploiting Probabilistic Independence for Effective Feature Subset Acquisition

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We address the cost-sensitive feature acquisition problem, where misclassifying an instance is costly but the expected misclassification cost can be reduced by acquiring the values of the missing features. Because acquiring the features is costly as well, the objective is to acquire the right set of features so that the sum of the feature acquisition cost and misclassification cost is minimized. We describe the Value of Information Lattice (VOILA), an optimal and efficient feature subset acquisition framework. Unlike the common practice, which is to acquire features greedily, VOILA can reason with subsets of features. VOILA efficiently searches the space of possible feature subsets by discovering and exploiting conditional independence properties between the features and it reuses probabilistic inference computations to further speed up the process. Through empirical evaluation on five medical datasets, we show that the greedy strategy is often reluctant to acquire features, as it cannot forecast the benefit of acquiring multiple features in combination.

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