Low-cost scalable discretization, prediction, and feature selection for complex systems

Sci Adv. 2020 Jan 29;6(5):eaaw0961. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw0961. eCollection 2020 Jan.


Finding reliable discrete approximations of complex systems is a key prerequisite when applying many of the most popular modeling tools. Common discretization approaches (e.g., the very popular K-means clustering) are crucially limited in terms of quality, parallelizability, and cost. We introduce a low-cost improved quality scalable probabilistic approximation (SPA) algorithm, allowing for simultaneous data-driven optimal discretization, feature selection, and prediction. We prove its optimality, parallel efficiency, and a linear scalability of iteration cost. Cross-validated applications of SPA to a range of large realistic data classification and prediction problems reveal marked cost and performance improvements. For example, SPA allows the data-driven next-day predictions of resimulated surface temperatures for Europe with the mean prediction error of 0.75°C on a common PC (being around 40% better in terms of errors and five to six orders of magnitude cheaper than with common computational instruments used by the weather services).