The voice of optimization

Dimitris Bertsimas, Bartolomeo Stellato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We introduce the idea that using optimal classification trees (OCTs) and optimal classification trees with-hyperplanes (OCT-Hs), interpretable machine learning algorithms developed by Bertsimas and Dunn (Mach Learn 106(7):1039–1082, 2017), we are able to obtain insight on the strategy behind the optimal solution in continuous and mixed-integer convex optimization problem as a function of key parameters that affect the problem. In this way, optimization is not a black box anymore. Instead, we redefine optimization as a multiclass classification problem where the predictor gives insights on the logic behind the optimal solution. In other words, OCTs and OCT-Hs give optimization a voice. We show on several realistic examples that the accuracy behind our method is in the 90–100% range, while even when the predictions are not correct, the degree of suboptimality or infeasibility is very low. We compare optimal strategy predictions of OCTs and OCT-Hs and feedforward neural networks (NNs) and conclude that the performance of OCT-Hs and NNs is comparable. OCTs are somewhat weaker but often competitive. Therefore, our approach provides a novel insightful understanding of optimal strategies to solve a broad class of continuous and mixed-integer optimization problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-277
Number of pages29
JournalMachine Learning
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Artificial Intelligence


  • Interpretability
  • Multiclass classification
  • Parametric optimization
  • Sampling


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