Types of Learning

Machine Learning (ML) is an automated learning with little or no human intervention. It involves programming computers so that they learn from the available inputs. The main purpose of machine learning is to explore and construct algorithms that can learn from the previous data and make predictions on new input data.

The input to a learning algorithm is training data, representing experience, and the output is any expertise, which usually takes the form of another algorithm that can perform a task. The input data to a machine learning system can be numerical, textual, audio, visual, or multimedia. The corresponding output data of the system can be a floating-point number, for instance, the velocity of a rocket, an integer representing a category or a class, for example, a pigeon or a sunflower from image recognition.

In this chapter, we will learn about the training data our programs will access and how learning process is automated and how the success and performance of such machine learning algorithms is evaluated.

Concepts of Learning

Learning is the process of converting experience into expertise or knowledge.

Learning can be broadly classified into three categories, as mentioned below, based on the nature of the learning data and interaction between the learner and the environment.

  • Supervised Learning
  • Unsupervised Learning
  • Semi-supervised Learning

Similarly, there are four categories of machine learning algorithms as shown below −

  • Supervised learning algorithm
  • Unsupervised learning algorithm
  • Semi-supervised learning algorithm
  • Reinforcement learning algorithm

However, the most commonly used ones are supervised and unsupervised learning.

Supervised Learning

Supervised learning is commonly used in real world applications, such as face and speech recognition, products or movie recommendations, and sales forecasting. Supervised learning can be further classified into two types – Regression and Classification.

Regression trains on and predicts a continuous-valued response, for example predicting real estate prices.

Classification attempts to find the appropriate class label, such as analyzing positive/negative sentiment, male and female persons, benign and malignant tumors, secure and unsecure loans etc.

In supervised learning, learning data comes with description, labels, targets or desired outputs and the objective is to find a general rule that maps inputs to outputs. This kind of learning data is called labeled data. The learned rule is then used to label new data with unknown outputs.

Supervised learning involves building a machine learning model that is based on labeled samples. For example, if we build a system to estimate the price of a plot of land or a house based on various features, such as size, location, and so on, we first need to create a database and label it. We need to teach the algorithm what features correspond to what prices. Based on this data, the algorithm will learn how to calculate the price of real estate using the values of the input features.

Supervised learning deals with learning a function from available training data. Here, a learning algorithm analyzes the training data and produces a derived function that can be used for mapping new examples. There are many supervised learning algorithms such as Logistic Regression, Neural networks, Support Vector Machines (SVMs), and Naive Bayes classifiers.

Common examples of supervised learning include classifying e-mails into spam and not-spam categories, labeling webpages based on their content, and voice recognition.

Unsupervised Learning

Unsupervised learning is used to detect anomalies, outliers, such as fraud or defective equipment, or to group customers with similar behaviors for a sales campaign. It is the opposite of supervised learning. There is no labeled data here.

When learning data contains only some indications without any description or labels, it is up to the coder or to the algorithm to find the structure of the underlying data, to discover hidden patterns, or to determine how to describe the data. This kind of learning data is called unlabeled data.

Suppose that we have a number of data points, and we want to classify them into several groups. We may not exactly know what the criteria of classification would be. So, an unsupervised learning algorithm tries to classify the given dataset into a certain number of groups in an optimum way.

Unsupervised learning algorithms are extremely powerful tools for analyzing data and for identifying patterns and trends. They are most commonly used for clustering similar input into logical groups. Unsupervised learning algorithms include Kmeans, Random Forests, Hierarchical clustering and so on.

Semi-supervised Learning

If some learning samples are labeled, but some other are not labeled, then it is semi-supervised learning. It makes use of a large amount of unlabeled data for training and a small amount of labeled data for testing. Semi-supervised learning is applied in cases where it is expensive to acquire a fully labeled dataset while more practical to label a small subset. For example, it often requires skilled experts to label certain remote sensing images, and lots of field experiments to locate oil at a particular location, while acquiring unlabeled data is relatively easy.

Reinforcement Learning

Here learning data gives feedback so that the system adjusts to dynamic conditions in order to achieve a certain objective. The system evaluates its performance based on the feedback responses and reacts accordingly. The best known instances include self-driving cars and chess master algorithm AlphaGo.

Purpose of Machine Learning

Machine learning can be seen as a branch of AI or Artificial Intelligence, since, the ability to change experience into expertise or to detect patterns in complex data is a mark of human or animal intelligence.

As a field of science, machine learning shares common concepts with other disciplines such as statistics, information theory, game theory, and optimization.

As a subfield of information technology, its objective is to program machines so that they will learn.

However, it is to be seen that, the purpose of machine learning is not building an automated duplication of intelligent behavior, but using the power of computers to complement and supplement human intelligence. For example, machine learning programs can scan and process huge databases detecting patterns that are beyond the scope of human perception.