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Estimating Conditional Mutual Information for Dynamic Feature Selection

Soham Gadgil · Ian Covert · Su-In Lee

Halle B #192
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Tue 7 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Dynamic feature selection, where we sequentially query features to make accurate predictions with a minimal budget, is a promising paradigm to reduce feature acquisition costs and provide transparency into the prediction process. The problem is challenging, however, as it requires both making predictions with arbitrary feature sets and learning a policy to identify the most valuable selections. Here, we take an information-theoretic perspective and prioritize features based on their mutual information with the response variable. The main challenge is implementing this policy, and we design a new approach that estimates the mutual information in a discriminative rather than a generative fashion. Building on our learning approach, we introduce several further improvements: allowing variable feature budgets across samples, enabling non-uniform costs between features, incorporating prior information, and exploring modern architectures to handle partial input information. We find that our method provides consistent gains over recent state-of-the-art methods across a variety of datasets.

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