Supervised Learning with Similarity Functions

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25 (NIPS 2012)

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Purushottam Kar, Prateek Jain


We address the problem of general supervised learning when data can only be accessed through an (indefinite) similarity function between data points. Existing work on learning with indefinite kernels has concentrated solely on binary/multiclass classification problems. We propose a model that is generic enough to handle any supervised learning task and also subsumes the model previously proposed for classification. We give a ''goodness'' criterion for similarity functions w.r.t. a given supervised learning task and then adapt a well-known landmarking technique to provide efficient algorithms for supervised learning using ''good'' similarity functions. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our model on three important supervised learning problems: a) real-valued regression, b) ordinal regression and c) ranking where we show that our method guarantees bounded generalization error. Furthermore, for the case of real-valued regression, we give a natural goodness definition that, when used in conjunction with a recent result in sparse vector recovery, guarantees a sparse predictor with bounded generalization error. Finally, we report results of our learning algorithms on regression and ordinal regression tasks using non-PSD similarity functions and demonstrate the effectiveness of our algorithms, especially that of the sparse landmark selection algorithm that achieves significantly higher accuracies than the baseline methods while offering reduced computational costs.