Divide-and-Conquer Learning by Anchoring a Conical Hull

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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Tianyi Zhou, Jeff A. Bilmes, Carlos Guestrin


We reduce a broad class of machine learning problems, usually addressed by EM or sampling, to the problem of finding the $k$ extremal rays spanning the conical hull of a data point set. These $k$ ``anchors'' lead to a global solution and a more interpretable model that can even outperform EM and sampling on generalization error. To find the $k$ anchors, we propose a novel divide-and-conquer learning scheme ``DCA'' that distributes the problem to $\mathcal O(k\log k)$ same-type sub-problems on different low-D random hyperplanes, each can be solved by any solver. For the 2D sub-problem, we present a non-iterative solver that only needs to compute an array of cosine values and its max/min entries. DCA also provides a faster subroutine for other methods to check whether a point is covered in a conical hull, which improves algorithm design in multiple dimensions and brings significant speedup to learning. We apply our method to GMM, HMM, LDA, NMF and subspace clustering, then show its competitive performance and scalability over other methods on rich datasets.