What Is Machine Learning? A Primer On The Different Types Of Machine Learning


We are living in a world where data is being generated at an exponential rate. The ability to store this data and use it for predictive purposes has also grown exponentially. Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that uses algorithms to find patterns in data sets. This technology can be used in almost every industry, from healthcare to finance and beyond!

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence, the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. It’s not really possible to define machine learning in one sentence or paragraph; there are many different types of ML that each have their own specific applications and methods. However, there are some common themes across all forms of ML:

  • A computer program that improves its performance on a task by using experience gained during previous execution(s) or training(s).
  • The ability for computers to learn from data without being explicitly programmed (i.e., how do I know what information is useful?).

Supervised learning

Supervised learning is a machine learning technique in which the algorithm is trained using labeled data. The algorithm learns from the examples it has been given, then makes predictions about new data.

In this type of machine learning, supervised algorithms learn to make predictions from new data by classifying them into categories based on what they’ve learned from previous examples. For example: if you want an algorithm that can tell whether or not someone will buy something–like shoes or clothes–you would first need to provide it with many examples of people who bought those items versus those who didn’t (the “supervision” part). Then your model will look at these examples and try to determine characteristics about each person in order to make its own predictions about whether or not someone else would purchase similar products in the future (the “learning” part).

Unsupervised learning

Unsupervised learning is a type of machine learning algorithm that is used to find patterns in data without being told which patterns to look for. It’s often used in data mining, where it’s applied to large datasets and used to discover hidden relationships between variables. Unsupervised algorithms can be broken down into two categories: clustering algorithms and association rule learners. Clustering algorithms group similar items together while association rules learn what happens when certain conditions are met (e.g., “if an item costs more than $100, then people tend not buy it”).

Reinforcement learning

Reinforcement learning is a type of machine learning that involves an agent interacting with its environment and taking actions to maximize rewards. The goal of reinforcement learning is to find a policy, or strategy, that allows an agent to maximize future rewards in its current state.

The key difference between reinforcement learning and supervised/unsupervised learning is that in the former case there’s no explicit training data given; instead we try to find a policy by having our model learn from interaction with its environment (like playing games). This makes RL harder than supervised/unsupervised methods since there isn’t any labeled data!

Artificial neural networks

The term “artificial neural network” can be a little confusing. It’s not actually a type of robot, but rather an algorithm inspired by the human brain that solves problems using layers of neurons. Neural networks work well for many types of tasks, including image recognition and speech processing–and they’re great at finding patterns in data sets that humans would have trouble identifying on their own.

Neural networks are composed of layers (usually three) of interconnected nodes known as neurons: one layer receives information from the previous layer and sends it to the next layer; this process repeats until you reach your final output layer where you get your answer or prediction!

In order to train a neural network so that it knows what kind of information belongs together in each layer, we need some examples from which we can learn how to classify new data items into these categories based on what they look like compared against previous examples we already know something interesting about (elements like shape/color).

Clustering algorithms

In machine learning, clustering algorithms are used to group data into clusters. For example, you might use a clustering algorithm to group pictures of cats based on their features such as color and shape. Clustering algorithms are supervised learning algorithms because they require labels for the training set (a set of examples used by an algorithm during training). They can be used for both unsupervised learning or reinforcement learning.

Machine learning is a powerful tool used by the data analytics community.

Machine learning is a powerful tool used by the data analytics community. Machine learning can be used for a wide variety of tasks, such as:

  • Data analytics (e.g., predictive modeling)
  • Pattern recognition (e.g., image analysis)
  • Decision making (e.g., recommendation systems)

Machine learning has been around since the 1940s but has recently become more popular due to improvements in hardware and software as well as more accessible datasets.


Machine learning is a powerful tool used by the data analytics community. It allows us to make better decisions, automate tasks and predict future outcomes based on past experiences. The main goal of machine learning is to find patterns in data that we can use for prediction or classification purposes. With so many different types of algorithms available today, it’s important for anyone interested in this field of study to understand how each one works!

Herbert Pourvase

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