How Artificial Intelligence Systems Are Effectively Trained
September 2, 2021
October 16, 2023
When most people think about artificial intelligence (AI), they think of two possible futures. A positive future where self-driving cars help us navigate our roads and robot servants help us maintain our homes. Or a more negative one, where machines take away our jobs and employment.
Fortunately, it looks like the negative future isn’t one that we have to worry about. AI systems won’t replace humans in the workforce, but rather they’ll exist alongside humans as invaluable sidekicks. While self-driving cars are advancing towards commonality, other grand AI aspirations await realization. Integral to achieving these goals is understanding how to train an AI effectively.
Getting to the stage we are at already wasn’t something that happened overnight. AI systems needed to be trained so that they were capable of providing us with the benefits we’ve already grown accustomed to.
Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that allows computers to automatically learn, improve, and hone their skills based on what they are exposed to. Machine learning uses algorithms that discover relationships between variables (i.e., the patterns), then learns from those lessons as it gains more data—much like how children learn through experience.
As machine-learning algorithms use billions of data points, which humans don’t need to understand or interpret in detail, they do well at finding patterns in datasets by using techniques such as supervised or unsupervised classification.
Deep neural networks are a more specialized machine-learning technique that imitates the human brain in processing data. The computers learn through positive and negative reinforcement, relying on continual processing and feedback.
Deep learning relies on its highly layered network of deep neural pathways. Each neuron on the network, consisting of a mathematical function that’s fed data to be transformed and analyzed as an output, creates complex patterns and associations.
Every time there is a cycle, the computer learns how to weigh the importance of each link between neurons. The computer gets better at predicting what will happen when there are many variables and changes in conditions.
With recent increases in computer power, neural networks have incorporated new learning methods that increase the power of AI models, as they are now capable of difficult pattern recognition tasks.
Training AI is a highly complex and fascinating process. Within the field of AI research, continuous work is being taken to find the best strategies for improving model speed and accuracy.
How AI systems are trained
The process of AI training is a three-step process. The first step, training, involves feeding data into a computer algorithm to create predictions and evaluate their accuracy. The second step, validating, evaluates how well the trained model performs on previously unseen data. Finally, testing is done to find out if the final model makes accurate predictions with new data that it has never seen before.
In this post, we are going to explore how to train an AI in more details and explain how they interact with each other.
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The first step while AI training is to feed data into a computer system. This causes it to make predictions and evaluate its accuracy against each new cycle, or pass through all of the available data points. Through the use of machine learning (ML) techniques, including deep learning, the algorithm can analyze the data and make better predictions.
In this way, we are teaching the software how to identify different features that may be present within an image, such as skin tone or hair color. Over time, these initial guesses become increasingly accurate until they reach a point where there isn’t much room for improvement anymore.
To get to this stage, massive amounts of data are fed into the model. This data can be of many different formats based on what is being analyzed. For example, if the intention is to build an algorithm that will be used for face recognition, different faces are loaded into the model.
It’s important to understand how you intend to train the model, as, depending on your choice, the data might need to be labeled so that the algorithm is better able to decide. There are two main methods of AI training. A supervised learning algorithm requires labeled input and output data, while an unsupervised one doesn’t.
In supervised learning, the algorithm “learns” from the training dataset by iterating through a prediction of unknown variables. With supervised machine learning models, human work is needed to “train” the computer system by providing appropriate labels for input data. Looking back at our previous example, using a supervised learning model, the faces being input would be appropriately labeled and other items would also be input with the correct labels. This way, a reflection in a window wouldn’t be mistaken for a person. Another example of a supervised learning model is a travel prediction based on a daily commute. By training the model to understand the impact of weather and time of day, it can make more accurate predictions based on current conditions.
Unsupervised learning models work independently to find structures that might exist in unlabeled data. This pattern recognition can be useful in finding correlations in data that might not immediately be obvious, helping identify outliers’ worth further investigation. Unsupervised learning models are significantly faster to train but do still require human intervention to validate the output variables.
The three types of Unsupervised Learning are Clustering, Association Rule Mining, and Outlier detection.
Clustering helps to group unlabeled data together based on specific criteria. The data in question could be grouped based on similarities or differences and specific data points are bundled into groups. This type of unsupervised learning is useful for market segmentation.
Association Rule Mining looks at the data slightly differently, with an intent to try and find relationships between data points. This type of unsupervised learning is useful for analyzing the relationships between different groups of items and looking at which combinations are more likely to occur together.
Outlier Detection can be used to find data points that fall outside certain bounds. This type of Unsupervised Learning is also helpful in finding anomalies within data sets, potentially leading to detecting unusual or fraudulent behavior.
A newer subset of unsupervised learning is known as reinforcement learning. Reinforcement learning is a type of machine learning that uses rewards and punishments in an attempt to maximize a reward metric. It’s most commonly used for games and self-driving cars.
Once the data has been loaded into the model, the next stage of training can begin.
Step Two: Validation
The second step in AI training is validation testing – which evaluates how models perform on data that the model hasn’t seen before. A validation test is used to evaluate how well a trained model performs on unseen data, which can help determine if training needs to be continued or modified in some way.
Reinforcement learning models are evaluated by trying to maximize their future reward metric – so they continue until there’s no more potential for improvement. In contrast, supervised learning and unsupervised learning have finite endpoints where the dataset size dictates what weights should be assigned and validated respectively.
A common strategy is known as “early stopping” whereby evaluating performance leads trainers to realize that it’s unlikely any further changes will improve predictions meaningfully given available resources (e.g., time). If this happens, it’s often a good idea to stop training and explore other options.
Step Three: Testing
Now it’s time to move on from simulation and into the real world. Give the AI a dataset that doesn’t include tags or targets (those are what have helped it interpret data up to this point). After training your AI on unstructured information, it’s time to put it to the test.
The more accurate the decisions your artificial intelligence can make, the better prepared you’ll be when it goes live, however, you need to look deeper if you’re getting 100% accuracy also.
One of the classic challenges with AI training is overfitting, where your application performs well on training data, but not as well on new data. On the opposite side of the scale, underfitting means that you’ve got models that don’t do a good job at juggling both old and new data. If it isn’t performing as predicted in some way or another by this stage, head back to the training process and repeat until satisfied with the accuracy.
Once you have a model that’s satisfied the training and validation process, it can be tempting to lean back and rest on your laurels. But the reality is, models, mimic their environment and should ideally reflect this changing world. For testing to be successful, certain criteria need to be in place:
The data being used to train your algorithm must be accurate and relevant. If your data is tagged (structured), the tags need to map back to an area of interest. For example, if you’re trying to train a customer service AI that can answer questions about your product line, then it’s important for these tags to include “Product A” or “Product B”. The greater the accuracy of the data being input, the faster the training and validation process will be.
It currently isn’t possible to automatically create annotations for first-class data that don’t require manual labor. However, by providing large volumes of data, which has been cleaned and tagged to a pool of experts in various fields on crowdsourcing platforms, the time for your project could be lower without sacrificing quality.
Hardware and Software
Deep learning is an intensive process for the computer, and it has a lot in common with human learning. This process requires vast amounts of computing power, such as high-performance Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) combined with clusters or cloud computing for large training data sets.
Setting up systems involving multiple GPUs, or in a cluster can help accelerate the Deep Learning process.
A decision related to AI infrastructure might involve considerations such as data storage, compute resources, or time. Building and maintaining custom in-house computing infrastructure, rather than renting web server space from a vendor, is a more demanding endeavor. It’s also rewarding on several levels, including flexibility. When starting with AI, a cloud provider may be the best option because they make it easier to get started, while still providing the benefits needed.
In addition to hardware considerations, the question of software, algorithms, and partners needs to also be considered. Practical machine learning relies on supervised learning algorithms, which are typically linear regression algorithms for regression problems, and support vector machines for classification.
However, if you don’t have data on the desired outcome, then you’ll want to use unlabeled learning. A popular example is a k-means algorithm for clustering, which trains with a simple heuristic and an estimation of what clusters should be.
Another consideration regarding AI training is who is going to train the algorithm? There’s a lack of AI developers in the world, and the few who aren’t employed are receiving substantial salaries. Prestigious tech companies are actively recruiting from top universities around the world to poach their graduates in order to meet this demand. Developers need to have an affinity for C++ programming, STL, physics or life sciences. Consequently, schools that specialize in STEM fields have started recruiting students earlier and earlier to get them prepared to work in the field of AI and data sciences.
Tips for Training an AI
Training an AI system is a nuanced process, requiring both technological and conceptual expertise. While the previous chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the AI training process, there are several strategies and best practices that can optimize this endeavor. Here are seven tips to consider when embarking on this journey:
Diversify Your Data Set
For a robust AI model, it’s crucial to ensure your training data is diverse and inclusive. This diversity not only helps in avoiding biases but also ensures that the AI system is effective across varied real-world scenarios. For instance, if you’re creating a visual recognition system, it should be exposed to images from multiple sources, backgrounds, lighting conditions, and demographic segments.
Regularly Update the Training Data
The world is dynamic, and so is its data. To maintain the efficacy and relevance of your model, it’s essential to frequently update your training data. This step becomes even more crucial for models dealing with sectors like finance or health, where change is constant and rapid.
Implement Data Augmentation
Using data augmentation can be a game-changer. It involves creatively modifying existing data to produce new training examples. Techniques might range from simple rotations of images to altering their brightness or cropping. Not only does this method amplify your training data, but it also plays a pivotal role in preventing model overfitting.
Prioritize Hyperparameter Tuning
Hyperparameters govern the overarching characteristics of the training process. Regular attention to tuning these variables, such as adjusting the learning rate or batch size, can significantly enhance model accuracy and training speed. Leveraging systematic techniques like grid search or random search can greatly assist in identifying the optimal hyperparameter combinations.
Incorporate Transfer Learning
Transfer learning offers a shortcut to success. It leverages pre-trained models for new yet related tasks. Instead of embarking on training a model entirely from the ground up, you can utilize models already trained for similar tasks and fine-tune them to your specific requirements. This approach often reduces training time while delivering high-quality performance.
Stay Updated with AI Research
The AI domain is in a state of constant flux. To maintain a competitive edge, it’s invaluable to stay abreast of the latest research, methodologies, and algorithms in the field. This can be achieved by routinely attending industry conferences, engaging with AI-centric webinars, and diving into recent academic and industry publications.
True AI is still far in the future, and while researchers continue to make advances, worrying about the robot apocalypse isn’t a necessary fear. Rather, AI will continue to become more and more useful as companies and individuals continue to find new use cases and applications.
As AI training tools, hardware and practices continue to evolve, it’s likely that we’ll see the artificial intelligence revolution continue to evolve as well.
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