Joint Active Feature Acquisition and Classification with Variable-Size Set Encoding

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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Hajin Shim, Sung Ju Hwang, Eunho Yang


We consider the problem of active feature acquisition where the goal is to sequentially select the subset of features in order to achieve the maximum prediction performance in the most cost-effective way at test time. In this work, we formulate this active feature acquisition as a jointly learning problem of training both the classifier (environment) and the RL agent that decides either to stop and predict' orcollect a new feature' at test time, in a cost-sensitive manner. We also introduce a novel encoding scheme to represent acquired subsets of features by proposing an order-invariant set encoding at the feature level, which also significantly reduces the search space for our agent. We evaluate our model on a carefully designed synthetic dataset for the active feature acquisition as well as several medical datasets. Our framework shows meaningful feature acquisition process for diagnosis that complies with human knowledge, and outperforms all baselines in terms of prediction performance as well as feature acquisition cost.