Machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, is a scientific discipline concerned with the design and development of algorithms that allow computers to evolve behaviors based on empirical data, such as from sensor data or databases. A learner can take advantage of examples (data) to capture characteristics of interest of their unknown underlying probability distribution. Data can be seen as examples that illustrate relations between observed variables. A major focus of machine learning research is to automatically learn to recognize complex patterns and make intelligent decisions based on data; the difficulty lies in the fact that the set of all possible behaviors given all possible inputs is too large to be covered by the set of observed examples (training data). Hence the learner must generalize from the given examples, so as to be able to produce a useful output in new cases. (Source: Wikipedia)
Learning, like intelligence, covers such a broad range of processes that it is difficult to define precisely. A dictionary definition includes phrases such as “to gain knowledge, or understanding of, or skill in, by study, instruction, or experience,” and “modification of a behavioral tendency by experience.” Zoologists and psychologists study learning in animals and humans.
There are several parallels between animal and machine learning. Certainly, many techniques in machine learning derive from the efforts of psychologists to make more precise their theories of animal and human learning through computational models. It seems likely also that the concepts and techniques being explored by researchers in machine learning may illuminate certain aspects of biological learning.
A changing machine is a learning machine
As regards machines, we might say, very broadly, that a machine learns whenever it changes its structure, program, or data (based on its inputs or in response to external information) in such a manner that its expected future performance improves. Some of these changes, such as the addition of a record to a data base, fall comfortably within the province of other disciplines and are not necessarily better understood for being called learning. But, for example, when the performance of a speech-recognition machine improves after hearing several samples of a person’s speech, we feel quite justified in that case to say that the machine has learned.
Machine learning usually refers to the changes in systems that perform tasks associated with artificial intelligence (AI). Such tasks involve recognition, diagnosis, planning, robot control, prediction, etc. The “changes” might be either enhancements to already performing systems or ab initio synthesis of new systems. To be slightly more specific, we show the architecture of a typical AI
This agent perceives and models its environment and computes appropriate actions, perhaps by anticipating their effects. Changes made to any of the components shown in the figure might count as learning. Different learning mechanisms might be employed depending on which subsystem is being changed. We will study several different learning methods in this book.
Why should machines have to learn?
One might ask “Why not design machines to perform as desired in the first place?” There are several reasons why machine learning is important. Of course, we have already mentioned that the achievement of learning in machines might help us understand how animals and humans learn. But there are important engineering reasons as well.
Some of these are:
- Some tasks cannot be defined well except by example; that is, we might be able to specify input/output pairs but not a concise relationship between inputs and desired outputs. We would like machines to be able to adjust their internal structure to produce correct outputs for a large number of sample inputs and thus suitably constrain their input/output function to approximate the relationship implicit in the examples.
- It is possible that hidden among large piles of data are important relationships and correlations. Machine learning methods can often be used to extract these relationships (data mining).
- Sensory signals
- Planning and Reasoning
- Action Computation
- Human designers often produce machines that do not work as well as desired in the environments in which they are used. In fact, certain characteristics of the working environment might not be completely known at design time. Machine learning methods can be used for on-the-job improvement of existing machine designs.
- The amount of knowledge available about certain tasks might be too large for explicit encoding by humans. Machines that learn this knowledge gradually might be able to capture more of it than humans would want to write down.
- Environments change over time. Machines that can adapt to a changing environment would reduce the need for constant redesign.
- New knowledge about tasks is constantly being discovered by humans. Vocabulary changes. There is a constant stream of new events in the world. Continuing redesign of AI systems to conform to new knowledge is impractical, but machine learning methods might be able to track much of it. (Source: Intro to ML)
Joshua is working to become a Data Scientist with focus on Analytics, Big Data, Machine Learning, and Statistics. His passion for Data and Information are second to none. He is a certified IBM Cognos Expert with more than 10 years experience in Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing, Analtyics, IT Management, Software Engineering and Supply Chain Performance Management with Fortune 500 companies. He has specializations in Analytics, Mobile Reporting, Performance Management, and Business Analysis.
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