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Blog / AI, AI Explained, Machine Learning / Machine Learning: Artificial Intelligence Explained

Machine Learning: Artificial Intelligence Explained

Feb. 16, 2024
9 min
Nathan Robinson
Nathan Robinson
Product Owner
Nathan is a product leader with proven success in defining and building B2B, B2C, and B2B2C mobile, web, and wearable products. These products are used by millions and available in numerous languages and countries. Following his time at IBM Watson, he 's focused on developing products that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning, earning accolades such as Forbes' Tech to Watch and TechCrunch's Top AI Products.

Key Insights

  • Machine learning is a subset of AI that enables machines to learn from data and improve autonomously
  • The field is divided into four primary categories: supervised, unsupervised, semi-supervised, and reinforcement learning
  • Each type of machine learning caters to different types of data and learning objectives
  • Ethical concerns such as bias, lack of transparency, and data privacy concerns highlight the necessity for stringent regulations and ethical practices within the field

Machine Learning (ML) is a subset of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that focuses on developing models capable of autonomously learning from data and improving their performance over time. The learning process in machine learning involves training algorithms to identify patterns and make decisions based on data. This learning can be broadly categorized into supervised learning, unsupervised learning, semi-supervised learning, and reinforcement learning. The ultimate goal of ML is to enable computers to learn autonomously, similar to how the human brain functions, without continuous human intervention.

Supervised Machine Learning Algorithms

Supervised learning algorithms are designed to learn from labeled examples. In this approach, a data scientist provides input data along with clearly defined corresponding outputs. The objective is to develop a machine learning model that can accurately predict the output for new, similar inputs based on the patterns recognized during training. This process involves a feedback mechanism where the model adjusts itself to minimize errors in its predictions as it learns from the training data. Supervised learning can be categorized into two types of problems: regression and classification.

Regression

Regression is a supervised learning approach that models the relationship between a dependent (target) variable and one or more independent (predictor) variables. It is widely used to predict continuous outcomes and understand the relationships between variables.

For instance, regression can be used to predict the price of a house based on features like size and location, or to forecast tomorrow’s temperature using data such as humidity and season.

Common types of regression include linear regression, polynomial regression, and logistic regression. These models are often used in fields like finance (predicting GDP, stock prices), healthcare (predicting drug responses, patient outcomes), and real estate (predicting house prices).

Classification

The goal of a classification model is to understand the relationship between features and labels to predict the categorical class (label) of new, unseen examples accurately. For instance, these models can classify emails as spam or not spam, or determine whether a photograph contains a cat or a dog.

Common classification algorithms include logistic regression, decision trees, and nearest neighbor methods. These techniques are applied in image recognition, speech recognition, medical diagnostics, and credit scoring.

Unsupervised Machine Learning Algorithms

Unsupervised learning algorithms are developed to identify patterns, relationships, or structures in datasets that are not labeled—meaning each piece of input data does not come with a corresponding output label. The primary objective is for the algorithm to uncover inherent groupings, correlations, or features within the data, based on the input alone. Without explicit outcomes to guide the learning process, the model relies on the data’s natural characteristics to infer the underlying structure. Unsupervised learning can be further divided into clustering and association problems. 

Clustering

Clustering is a machine learning method used to categorize data points into distinct groups (called clusters), where points within the same cluster share a higher degree of similarity compared to points in different clusters.

For example, clustering can help identify groups of customers with similar characteristics, which can be useful for targeted marketing. Common types of clustering algorithms include K-Means, DBSCAN, and Hierarchical Clustering.

Association

Association is a rule-based machine learning method that is used to find relationships (or “association rules”) among large sets of items in databases. For example, an association rule might imply that if a customer buys bread and butter, they are also likely to buy milk. The strength of an association rule is measured using metrics like support, confidence, and lift.

Common types of association rule learning algorithms include Apriori, Eclat, and FP-Growth. Association rule learning is often utilized in retail for market basket analysis, healthcare for drug interaction studies, finance for fraud detection, and ecommerce for personalized recommendations.

Semi-Supervised Machine Learning Algorithms

Semi-supervised learning is a combination of supervised and unsupervised learning methods. With this method, the algorithm is trained on a small labeled dataset and a large unlabeled dataset. The idea is that the algorithm can begin to learn from the small labeled dataset and then apply that learning to the larger unlabeled dataset. Common types of semi-supervised learning algorithms include self-training, multi-view training, and semi-supervised support vector machines (S3VMs).

Reinforcement Machine Learning Algorithms

Reinforcement learning is a type of machine learning where a model, referred to as an agent, learns to make decisions by interacting with an environment. The agent performs actions and receives rewards or penalties based on the outcomes, aiming to maximize its total rewards. Unlike supervised learning, this approach does not require a pre-labeled dataset. Instead, the agent improves by trial and error, continually adapting its strategy, known as a policy, based on the feedback from the environment.

A key challenge in reinforcement learning is balancing exploration (discovering new knowledge) and exploitation (using known information to maximize rewards). The agent must explore enough of the environment to make informed decisions but also exploit its current knowledge to perform well.

Popular reinforcement learning algorithms include Q-Learning, Deep Q Network (DQN), and Monte Carlo Tree Search, each offering different mechanisms and advantages for learning from interactions with the environment.

Conclusion

Machine learning is a rapidly growing field that is making significant impacts in many industries. By understanding the different types of ML algorithms, we can better understand how this technology can be applied to solve complex problems. Whether it’s predicting future trends, automating tasks, or making decisions, machine learning algorithms are a crucial tool in the world of artificial intelligence.

As the field continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more sophisticated algorithms and applications. The future of machine learning is bright, and understanding these fundamental concepts is a great way to start your journey in this exciting field.

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Questions?

  • What is machine learning and how does it differ from traditional programming?
    Toggle question
    Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence focused on creating algorithms and statistical models that allow computers to perform specific tasks by learning from and making predictions or decisions based on data. Unlike traditional programming, where developers write explicit instructions to solve problems, machine learning enables systems to learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed for each specific task. This approach aims to mimic human intelligence and is especially effective for tasks where designing explicit algorithms is impractical.
  • What is the difference between AI and machine learning?
    Toggle question
    AI is the overarching concept of creating intelligent systems, while machine learning is a specific approach within AI that enables systems to learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed for every task.
  • What role does data play in machine learning?
    Toggle question
    Data fuels ML algorithms and is used to teach models patterns and relationships, enabling them to make accurate predictions or decisions. The quality, quantity, and relevance of data significantly impacts the performance of machine learning models.
  • How can businesses leverage machine learning?
    Toggle question
    Businesses can harness ML to perform complex tasks such as predictive analytics, customer segmentation, process optimization, and automation. ML-driven insights also contribute to informed decision-making and innovation within businesses.
  • What is the future of machine learning?
    Toggle question
    The future of machine learning involves larger, more powerful models with the ability to perform tasks that are more complex, widespread adoption across industries, ethical AI development, improved explainability and transparency, and significant breakthroughs in areas like natural language processing and computer vision. These advancements will drive innovation and efficiency in numerous fields.
  • What is deep learning?
    Toggle question
    Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning that focuses on algorithms inspired by the structure and function of the brain, which are called artificial neural networks. It is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building, using a neural network with many layers. These layers are the ‘deep’ part of deep learning, and they consist of nodes, with each layer using the output of the previous layer as its input.
  • What is computer vision?
    Toggle question
    Computer vision is a field of machine learning that trains computers to interpret and understand the visual world. Using digital images from cameras and videos and deep learning models, computer vision systems can identify objects, classify images, and react to what they "see" in a way that mimics human visual perception.
Nathan Robinson
Nathan Robinson
Product Owner
Nathan is a product leader with proven success in defining and building B2B, B2C, and B2B2C mobile, web, and wearable products. These products are used by millions and available in numerous languages and countries. Following his time at IBM Watson, he 's focused on developing products that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning, earning accolades such as Forbes' Tech to Watch and TechCrunch's Top AI Products.

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