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MABSplit: Faster Forest Training Using Multi-Armed Bandits

Mo Tiwari · Ryan Kang · Jaeyong Lee · Chris Piech · Ilan Shomorony · Sebastian Thrun · Martin Zhang

Hall J (level 1) #712

Keywords: [ random forest ] [ CART ] [ xgboost ] [ Multi-armed Bandits ] [ Best Arm Identification ] [ classification and regression trees ]


Random forests are some of the most widely used machine learning models today, especially in domains that necessitate interpretability. We present an algorithm that accelerates the training of random forests and other popular tree-based learning methods. At the core of our algorithm is a novel node-splitting subroutine, dubbed MABSplit, used to efficiently find split points when constructing decision trees. Our algorithm borrows techniques from the multi-armed bandit literature to judiciously determine how to allocate samples and computational power across candidate split points. We provide theoretical guarantees that MABSplit improves the sample complexity of each node split from linear to logarithmic in the number of data points. In some settings, MABSplit leads to 100x faster training (an 99% reduction in training time) without any decrease in generalization performance. We demonstrate similar speedups when MABSplit is used across a variety of forest-based variants, such as Extremely Random Forests and Random Patches. We also show our algorithm can be used in both classification and regression tasks. Finally, we show that MABSplit outperforms existing methods in generalization performance and feature importance calculations under a fixed computational budget. All of our experimental results are reproducible via a one-line script at

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