In this paper, we present a generic feature extraction method for pattern classification using multiobjective genetic programming. This not only evolves the (near-)optimal set of mappings from a pattern space to a multi-dimensional decision space, but also simultaneously optimizes the dimensionality of that decision space. The presented framework evolves vector-to-vector feature extractors that maximize class separability. We demonstrate the efficacy of our approach by making statistically-founded comparisons with a wide variety of established classifier paradigms over a range of datasets and find that for most of the pairwise comparisons, our evolutionary method delivers statistically smaller misclassification errors. At very worst, our method displays no statistical difference in a few pairwise comparisons with established classifier/dataset combinations; crucially, none of the misclassification results produced by our method is worse than any comparator classifier. Although principally focused on feature extraction, feature selection is also performed as an implicit side effect; we show that both feature extraction and selection are important to the success of our technique. The presented method has the practical consequence of obviating the need to exhaustively evaluate a large family of conventional classifiers when faced with a new pattern recognition problem in order to attain a good classification accuracy.

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