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Workshop: Gaussian Processes, Spatiotemporal Modeling, and Decision-making Systems

Sparse Bayesian Optimization

Sulin Liu · Qing Feng · David Eriksson · Ben Letham · Eytan Bakshy


Bayesian optimization (BO) is a powerful approach to sample-efficient optimization of black-box objective functions. However, the application of BO to areas such as recommendation systems often requires taking the interpretability and simplicity of the configurations into consideration, a setting that has not been previously studied in the BO literature. To make BO applicable in this setting, we present several regularization-based approaches that allow us to discover sparse and more interpretable configurations. We propose a novel differentiable relaxation based on homotopy continuation that makes it possible to target sparsity by working directly with regularization. We identify failure modes for regularized BO and develop a hyperparameter-free method, sparsity exploring Bayesian optimization (SEBO) that seeks to simultaneously maximize a target objective and sparsity. SEBO and methods based on fixed regularization are evaluated on synthetic and real-world problems, and we show that we are able to efficiently optimize for sparsity.

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