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Tags:Automated,DataScience,FeatureEngineering,FeatureExtraction,MIT

MITresearchershavedevelopedwhattheyrefertoastheDataScienceMachine,whichcombinesfeatureengineeringandanendtoenddatascience
pipelineintoasystemthatbeatsnearly70%ofhumansincompetitions.Isthisgamechanging?

ByMatthewMayo,KDnuggets.

RecentresearchbyMITMaster'sstudentMaxKanterhasledtotheimplementationofwhathereferstoasthe'DataScienceMachine.'Apaperonthe
DataScienceMachine(DSM)anditsunderlyinginnovation,theDeepFeatureSynthesisalgorithm,byKanterandKalyanVeeramachaneni,histhesis
supervisoratCSAIL,issettobepresentedattheIEEEInternationalConferenceonDataScienceandAdvancedAnalyticsnextweek.Theirpaper'Deep
FeatureSynthesis:TowardsAutomatingDataScienceEndeavors'isavailableonlinenow.

http://www.kdnuggets.com/2015/10/datasciencemachine.html 3/6
10/12/2016 TheDataScienceMachine,orHowToEngineerFeatureEngineering

TheDSMisconciselydescribedbyKanter&Veeramachanenias"anautomatedsystemforgeneratingpredictivemodelsfromrawdata,"which
combinestheauthors'innovativefeatureengineeringapproachwithanendtoenddatasciencepipeline.TheDSMhas,thusfar,managedtobeat68.9%
ofteamsindatasciencecompetitionsthatithasbeenenteredinto.Perhapsmostnoteworthy,submissionswhichattainthissuccessratearegenerally
completedinunder12hours,asopposedtothemonthswhichteamsofhumanscanlaborfor.

TheDSMispremisedontheobservationsthatdatasciencecompetitionproblemsgenerallyhavethefollowingpropertiesincommon:theyare
structuredandrelational,theymodelhumaninteractionwithacomplexsystem,andthereisanattemptmadetopredictsomeaspectofhumanity.

DeepFeatureSynthesis

Aswithanydatascienceproblem,featuresmustfirstbeidentifiedfromexistingvariables,orbecreatedfromleveragingexistingvariables.While
concedingthatfeatureengineeringhasmadesignificantrecentadvancementsintheareasofnonrelationaldatasuchastextandimages,Kanter&
Veeramachaneninotethatitisstillthistaskthatmostreliesonhumaninterventioninthedatasciencepipeline,andcanbedifficultandtimeconsuming
evenforseasoneddatascientists.Itisalsothistaskthatmustmostcloselyreplicatetheefficiencyofahumanbeingifitistobetrulyautomated.

DeepFeatureSelection(DFS),theDSM'sfeatureengineeringalgorithm,isstrictlyforrelationaldatasets,andisusedtoautomatetheidentificationand
generationofinsightelicitingfeatures.DFStakesrelationaltablesasinput,andisabletoprocessthevarioustypesofdataheldwithinsuchadata
structure.Tobesuccessful,DFSaimstothinklikeadatascientist,lookingtoturninsightfulquestionsintoinputfeatures.

TheDFSalgorithmwalkstherelationshipsandappliesfeatureselectionfunctionsasitdoesso,creatingafinalfeaturestepbystep.Asitperformsthis
walk,DFSstacksthecalculationsofthemathematicalfunctionstoaparticulardepth,andthisiswherethenameDFSisderived.

Dependingontheinputdatatypes,anumberofmathematicalfunctionsareappliedat2distinctlevelsintheDSM:entityandrelational.Entitylevel
featuresfocusonconversionandtranslationfunctions,suchaschangingdatarepresentations,roundingnumbers,andextractingexistinggeneralized
attributesintomorenumerousandconciseattributes.Relationallevelfeaturesareconcernedwiththerelationshipsbetweenentitiesintables(thinkabout
yourprimaryandforeignkeys).Thesefeaturefunctionsarethenabletoextractrelateddatafromothertablestoassociatewithagivenfeature(for
example,findingthemaxitempriceoritemcountassociatedwithanorder),datawhichcouldpotentiallybeexploitedasausefulfeaturetofeedintoa
model.

MachineLearningPathway

TostartofftheDSM'smachinelearningpathway,oneoftheinputfeaturesischosentomodel,whichisreferredtoasthetargetvalue,andwhichisused
toformthepredictionproblem.Appropriatefeatures,knownaspredictors,areselectedviametadatatohelpinthepredictionprocess.TheDSMthen
createsapathwayfordatapreprocessing,featureselection,dimensionalityreduction,modeling,andevaluation,allofwhichisparameterizedand
availableforreuseifnecessary.

ParameteroptimizationisaccomplishedusingaCopulaProcess,andanattemptismadetoreducethenumberoffeaturesbyobservingcorrelation.The
reducedsetoffeaturesisthentestedonsampledata,recombiningthemindifferentwaystooptimizetheaccuracyofthepredictionstheyyield.Byits
useofautotuning,whichtheauthorsargueisasolutelycriticaltoitsperformance,theDSMwasabletoincreaseitsscoreatallthreeofitscompetitions.

Discussion

Whatthisallseemstosuggest,essentially,isthis:TheDSMusesintelligentrelationaldatabaserelationwalkingtohelpbuildandestablishcandidate
features,narrowsthisfeaturesetdownbylookingforcorrelatedvalues,andusescombinatoricsinwhatamountstobruteforcefeatureengineering,to
applyiterativefeaturesubsetstosampledatawhilerecombiningthemforoptimizationuntilthebestpossiblesolutionisfound.

TomeasuretheDSM'sperformance,itwasenteredincompetitionsatKDDCup2014,IJCAI,andKDDCup2015,where,asmentioned,it
outperformedmorethan2/3ofthehumancompetitors.Kanter&Veeramachaneniclaimthatevenduringitsworstperformance(IJCAI),theDSMstill
managedtoframethepredictionprobleminsimilartermstohumancompetitors,evidencedbythefactthatitproceededinthetaskbypursuingsimilar
avenuesofdatamodeling.Inthissamecompetition,itfinishedwithanAUCdifferenceofapproximately0.04ofthecontestwinner,suggestingthatthe
DSMcapturedwhatcouldbeconsideredthemajoraspectsofthecompetitiondataset.

Kanter&Veeramachaneniarguethat,whileitcannotcurrentlycompetewiththehighestperforminghumanscientists,theDSMneverthelesshasarole
alongsidethem.EventhoughanumberofhumansbeatouttheDSMineachofitscompetitions,itwasabletooutperformthemajorityofthemwith
considerablylesseffort(lessthan12hoursversusmonths,insomecases).Theysuggestthat,inlightofthis,itcanbeusedforsettingbenchmarksas
wellasforfosteringcreativity.Frontloadingfeatureengineeringandgeneratingsetsofpotentialtopperformingsetscouldallowhumanstomoveonto
rethinkingtheproblemwithinhours,effectivelystartingwiththeDSMsolutionandmovingforwardfromthatpoint.

Itshouldbenotedthat,whiletheDSMisimpressive,it'shardlythefirstsystemaimingtoautomatemachinelearning.Otherexamplesincludemany
systemsthatautomaticallybuildmodelstobidonadvertising,orKXENModelFactory(nowpartofSAP),whichofferedAutomatedModelBuilding
alreadyin2010.Also,itisclearthattheDSMisnotusefulforalltypesofdata,andisasystemimplementedsolelyfocusingontheexploitionof
relationaldatasets.Itisalsoyettobeshownthatitcanbeeffectiveinrelationaldatasetsthatdonotconformtothepreviouslyidentifieddatascience
competitionproblempattern.

TheDSMhasalreadybeenspunoffintoastartupcalledFeatureLab,toutedas"InsightswithanInterface,"withKanterasitsCEO.Thewebsitestates
"Domorewithyourdata,withoutmoredatascientists,"andclaimsthatitisthe"bestsolutionforcompanieslookingtoincreasetheirdatascience
resources."Thesearebothboldclaims,especiallyinlightofthefactthatnoneoftheindividualpiecesofDSMcanreallybeconsideredbreakthroughs.
ItisentirelypossiblethatFeatureLabgetslostinacloudof"businessintelligence"serviceplatforms.ButBigDataisgoingnowhere,andfeature
engineeringhasbeenoneofthehottesttopicsinmachinelearningoverthepast12months.ItjustmaybethattheDSM'sparticularcombinationof
technologiesatwhatmayendupbeingtherighttimeleadstoanewwayofthinkingaboutdatascience.

MargoSeltzer,aHarvardcomputerscienceprofessor,hasstatedinreferencetotheDSM,"Ithinkwhatthey'vedoneisgoingtobecomethestandard
quicklyveryquickly."Ifthisisthecase,FeatureLabsstandstobewellpositioned.
http://www.kdnuggets.com/2015/10/datasciencemachine.html 4/6
10/12/2016 TheDataScienceMachine,orHowToEngineerFeatureEngineering
quicklyveryquickly."Ifthisisthecase,FeatureLabsstandstobewellpositioned.

YoucanreadmoreaboutKanter&Veeramachaneni'sDataScienceMachinehere.

Bio:MatthewMayoisacomputersciencegraduatestudentcurrentlyworkingonhisthesisparallelizingmachinelearningalgorithms.Heisalsoa
studentofdatamining,adataenthusiast,andanaspiringmachinelearningscientist.

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