Semi-Supervised Learning with Decision Trees: Graph Laplacian Tree Alternating Optimization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Arman Zharmagambetov, Miguel A. Carreira-Perpinan


Semi-supervised learning seeks to learn a machine learning model when only a small amount of the available data is labeled. The most widespread approach uses a graph prior, which encourages similar instances to have similar predictions. This has been very successful with models ranging from kernel machines to neural networks, but has remained inapplicable to decision trees, for which the optimization problem is much harder. We solve this based on a reformulation of the problem which requires iteratively solving two simpler problems: a supervised tree learning problem, which can be solved by the Tree Alternating Optimization algorithm; and a label smoothing problem, which can be solved through a sparse linear system. The algorithm is scalable and highly effective even with very few labeled instances, and makes it possible to learn accurate, interpretable models based on decision trees in such situations.