What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning (ML) is a modern software development technique and a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that enables computers to solve problems by using examples of real-world data. It allows computers to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed to do so.

Machine learning is part of the broader field of artificial intelligence. This field is concerned with the capability of machines to perform activities using human-like intelligence. Within machine learning there are several different kinds of tasks or techniques:

In supervised learning, every training sample from the dataset has a corresponding label or output value associated with it. As a result, the algorithm learns to predict labels or output values.

In unsupervised learning, there are no labels for the training data. A machine learning algorithm tries to learn the underlying patterns or distributions that govern the data.

In reinforcement learning, the algorithm figures out which actions to take in a situation to maximize a reward (in the form of a number) on the way to reaching a specific goal. This is a completely different approach than supervised and unsupervised learning.

In traditional problem-solving with software, a person analyzes a problem and engineers a solution in code to solve that problem. For many real-world problems, this process can be laborious (or even impossible) because a correct solution would need to consider a vast number of edge cases.

Imagine, for example, the challenging task of writing a program that can detect if a cat is present in an image. Solving this in the traditional way would require careful attention to details like varying lighting conditions, different types of cats, and various poses a cat might be in.

In machine learning, the problem solver abstracts away part of their solution as a flexible component called a model, and uses a special program called a model training algorithm to adjust that model to real-world data. The result is a trained model which can be used to predict outcomes that are not part of the data set used to train it.

In a way, machine learning automates some of the statistical reasoning and pattern-matching the problem solver would traditionally do.

The overall goal is to use a model created by a model training algorithm to generate predictions or find patterns in data that can be used to solve a problem.

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