Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)
Pierre-Cyril Aubin-Frankowski, Zoltan Szabo
Shape constraints (such as non-negativity, monotonicity, convexity) play a central role in a large number of applications, as they usually improve performance for small sample size and help interpretability. However enforcing these shape requirements in a hard fashion is an extremely challenging problem. Classically, this task is tackled (i) in a soft way (without out-of-sample guarantees), (ii) by specialized transformation of the variables on a case-by-case basis, or (iii) by using highly restricted function classes, such as polynomials or polynomial splines. In this paper, we prove that hard affine shape constraints on function derivatives can be encoded in kernel machines which represent one of the most flexible and powerful tools in machine learning and statistics. Particularly, we present a tightened second-order cone constrained reformulation, that can be readily implemented in convex solvers. We prove performance guarantees on the solution, and demonstrate the efficiency of the approach in joint quantile regression with applications to economics and to the analysis of aircraft trajectories, among others.