machine learning, pac, artificial intelligence, learning by decomposition, concept decomposition, examle decomposition


For efficient understanding and prediction in natural systems, even in artificially closed ones, we usually need to consider a number of factors that may combine in simple or complex ways. Additionally, many modern scientific disciplines face increasingly large datasets from which to extract knowledge (for example, genomics). Thus to learn all but the most trivial regularities in the natural world, we rely on different ways of simplifying the learning problem. One simplifying technique that is highly pervasive in nature is to break down a large learning problem into smaller ones; to learn the smaller, more manageable problems; and then to recombine them to obtain the larger picture. It is widely accepted in machine learning that it is easier to learn several smaller decomposed concepts than a single large one. Though many machine learning methods exploit it, the process of decomposition of a learning problem has not been studied adequately from a theoretical perspective. Typically such decomposition of concepts is achieved in highly constrained environments, or aided by human experts. In this work, we investigate concept learning by example decomposition in a general probably approximately correct (PAC) setting for Boolean learning. We develop sample complexity bounds for the different steps involved in the process. We formally show that if the cost of example partitioning is kept low then it is highly advantageous to learn by example decomposition. To demonstrate the efficacy of this framework, we interpret the theory in the context of feature extraction. We discover that many vague concepts in feature extraction, starting with what exactly a feature is, can be formalized unambiguously by this new theory of feature extraction. We analyze some existing feature learning algorithms in light of this theory, and finally demonstrate its constructive nature by generating a new learning algorithm from theoretical results.


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Graduation Date



Hughes, Charles


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Computer Science








Release Date

May 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)