Skip to main content

Automatic Feature Selection in Neuroevolution

Shimon Whiteson‚ Peter Stone‚ Kenneth O. Stanley‚ Risto Miikkulainen and Nate Kohl


Feature selection is the process of finding the set of inputs to a machine learning algorithm that will yield the best performance. Developing a way to solve this problem automatically would make current machine learning methods much more useful. Previous efforts to automate feature selection rely on expensive meta-learning or are applicable only when labeled training data is available. This paper presents a novel method called FS-NEAT which extends the NEAT neuroevolution method to automatically determine an appropriate set of inputs for the networks it evolves. By learning the network's inputs, topology, and weights simultaneously, FS-NEAT addresses the feature selection problem without relying on meta-learning or labeled data. Initial experiments in an autonomous car racing simulation demonstrate that FS-NEAT can learn better and faster than regular NEAT. In addition, the networks it evolves are smaller and require fewer inputs. Furthermore, FS-NEAT's performance remains robust even as the feature selection task it faces is made increasingly difficult.

Book Title
GECCO 2005: Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference