Multi-Task Learning via Conic Programming

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 20 (NIPS 2007)

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Tsuyoshi Kato, Hisashi Kashima, Masashi Sugiyama, Kiyoshi Asai


When we have several related tasks, solving them simultaneously is shown to be more effective than solving them individually. This approach is called multi-task learning (MTL) and has been studied extensively. Existing approaches to MTL often treat all the tasks as \emph{uniformly related to each other and the relatedness of the tasks is controlled globally. For this reason, the existing methods can lead to undesired solutions when some tasks are not highly related to each other, and some pairs of related tasks can have significantly different solutions. In this paper, we propose a novel MTL algorithm that can overcome these problems. Our method makes use of a task network, which describes the relation structure among tasks. This allows us to deal with intricate relation structures in a systematic way. Furthermore, we control the relatedness of the tasks locally, so all pairs of related tasks are guaranteed to have similar solutions. We apply the above idea to support vector machines (SVMs) and show that the optimization problem can be cast as a second order cone program, which is convex and can be solved efficiently. The usefulness of our approach is demonstrated through simulations with protein super-family classification and ordinal regression problems.