On the Proper Learning of Axis-Parallel Concepts

Nader H. Bshouty, Lynn Burroughs; 4(Jun):157-176, 2003.


We study the proper learnability of axis-parallel concept classes in the PAC-learning and exact-learning models. These classes include union of boxes, DNF, decision trees and multivariate polynomials.

For constant-dimensional axis-parallel concepts C we show that the following problems have time complexities that are within a polynomial factor of each other.

  1. C is α-properly exactly learnable (with hypotheses of size at most α times the target size) from membership and equivalence queries.
  2. C is α-properly PAC learnable (without membership queries) under any product distribution.
  3. There is an α-approximation algorithm for the MINEQUIC problem (given a gC find a minimal size fC that is logically equivalent to g).

In particular, if one has polynomial time complexity, they all do. Using this we give the first proper-learning algorithm of constant-dimensional decision trees and the first negative results in proper learning from membership and equivalence queries for many classes.

For axis-parallel concepts over a nonconstant dimension we show that with the equivalence oracle (1) ⇒ (3). We use this to show that (binary) decision trees are not properly learnable in polynomial time (assuming P ≠ NP) and DNF is not sε-properly learnable (ε < 1) in polynomial time even with an NP-oracle (assuming Σ2PPNP).


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