Robust Classification Systems for Imprecise Environments

Foster Provost, Tom Fawcett

In real-world environments it is usually difficult to specify target operating conditions precisely. This uncertainty makes building robust classification systems problematic. We show that it is possible to build a hybrid classifier that will perform at least as well as the best available classifier for any target conditions. This robust performance extends across a wide variety of comparison frameworks, including the optimization of metrics such as accuracy, expected cost, lift, precision, recall, and workforce utilization. In some cases, the performance of the hybrid can actually surpass that of the best known classifier. The hybrid is also efficient to build, to store, and to update. Finally, we provide empirical evidence that a robust hybrid classifier is needed for many real-world problems.

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