I have "millions" of items each having N binary features. When a feature is "0" it could be that the information is simply missing. So, given the data with the currently observed 1's, I would like to have a probability of the "0" features being "1".

I am thinking this can be a Neural network with all features as input and same as output. But then I don't know how the training would work. I don't have ground truth.

I would like some help expressing my problem and hopefully not reinvent the wheel. Is this is a classical problem in ML, and what approach can be applied?

  • $\begingroup$ What about the ground truth? I mean it is not clear to me whether you have a dataset correctly labeled to make a model learn against. $\endgroup$
    – tagoma
    Dec 14, 2017 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ We don't have a ground truth. $\endgroup$
    – DED
    Dec 15, 2017 at 14:14

1 Answer 1


A simple approach could be the following: suppose $i \in \{0,1\}^d$ is the vector you want to predict which of the $0$ entries could be $1$ and $j \in J$ the rest of the feature vectors. Take the $k$ nearest neighbors, under some suitable distance (Jaccard, Hamming, Manhattan distance). For each $0$ entry the probabilities could be the percentage of the $k$ nearest neighbors that have $1$ in the corresponding entry.

This problem has been extensively study in the collaborative filtering community. The best known example being the Netflix Prize. This blog post provides a nice explanation of this approarch for binary data.

Another, more involved, approach is matrix completion, in particular check this reference. If you are into deep learning check this.

  • $\begingroup$ Brilliant! this seems to be exactly my setting. I will read through your pointers, thank you. $\endgroup$
    – DED
    Dec 15, 2017 at 16:15

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