Decision Algebra : A General Approach to Learning and Using Classifiers

Abstract: Processing decision information is a vital part of Computer Science fields in which pattern recognition problems arise. Decision information can be generalized as alternative decisions (or classes), attributes and attribute values, which are the basis for classification. Different classification approaches exist, such as decision trees, decision tables and Naïve Bayesian classifiers, which capture and manipulate decision information in order to construct a specific decision model (or classifier). These approaches are often tightly coupled to learning strategies, special data structures and the special characteristics of the decision information captured, etc. The approaches are also connected to the way of how certain problems are addressed, e.g., memory consumption, low accuracy, etc. This situation causes problems for a simple choice, comparison, combination and manipulation of different decision models learned over the same or different samples of decision information. The choice and comparison of decision models are not merely the choice of a model with a higher prediction accuracy and a comparison of prediction accuracies, respectively. We also need to take into account that a decision model, when used in a certain application, often has an impact on the application's performance. Often, the combination and manipulation of different decision models are implementation- or application-specific, thus, lacking the generality that leads to the construction of decision models with combined or modified decision information. They also become difficult to transfer from one application domain to another. In order to unify different approaches, we define Decision Algebra, a theoretical framework that presents decision models as higher order decision functions that abstract from their implementation details. Decision Algebra defines the operations necessary to decide, combine, approximate, and manipulate decision functions along with operation signatures and general algebraic laws. Due to its algebraic completeness (i.e., a complete algebraic semantics of operations and its implementation efficiency), defining and developing decision models is simple as such instances require implementing just one core operation based on which other operations can be derived. Another advantage of Decision Algebra is composability: it allows for combination of decision models constructed using different approaches. The accuracy and learning convergence properties of the combined model can be proven regardless of the actual approach. In addition, the applications that process decision information can be defined using Decision Algebra regardless of the different classification approaches. For example, we use Decision Algebra in a context-aware composition domain, where we showed that context-aware applications improve performance when using Decision Algebra. In addition, we suggest an approach to integrate this context-aware component into legacy applications.