Supervised and unsupervised learning: differences and similarities

Have you ever heard of supervised and unsupervised learning techniques?  These are two distinct types of machine learning techniques used...
17 May 2023

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Supervised and unsupervised learning: differences and similarities

Have you ever heard of supervised and unsupervised learning techniques? 

These are two distinct types of machine learning techniques used in data science. The goal of these processes is to help systems learn from data.

But how do they do it? In this post, we will explain how and explore the differences and similarities between supervised and unsupervised learning.

What is supervised learning?

Supervised learning is a type of machine learning technique where the algorithm learns from labeled data. In other words, the algorithm is trained on a dataset with known inputs and outputs and learns to map the inputs to the correct outputs. 

The goal is to teach the algorithm to predict output values for new inputs it has not seen before with high accuracy. 

Supervised learning is commonly used for tasks such as image classification, speech recognition, and natural language processing.In other words, the model must find the hidden structure in the data without any guidance.

The computer system analyzes labeled training data and learns to recognize patterns in the data.

Once the system has been trained with the training data, you can use it to make accurate predictions on unlabeled data.

This can be very useful in various everyday applications, from classifying unwanted emails to detecting financial fraud.

Supervised vs. unsupervised learning, are they the same?

Advantages of supervised learning

As you may have guessed, the use of supervised learning has several advantages, some of which are listed below:

  1. Accurate predictions: Supervised learning algorithms are designed to learn from labeled data, which helps them make accurate predictions on new, unlabeled data.
  2. Efficient training: Since the algorithm has labeled data to learn from, it can quickly and efficiently learn to make predictions.
  3. Versatility: Supervised learning can be applied to various applications, from image recognition to natural language processing.
  4. Clear evaluation metrics: The accuracy of a supervised learning model can be easily measured and evaluated, making it easy to compare different models and choose the best one for a particular task.
  5. Interpretability: Supervised learning models can provide insights into the relationships between different variables, which can be useful for understanding complex systems and making informed decisions.

As you can see, this is a very efficient and accurate machine-learning technique that can be used for various business and scientific applications.

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Types of supervised learning

There are two main types of supervised learning:

  1. Regression: This type of supervised learning involves predicting a constant value output based on the input variables. It can solve problems like predicting house prices, stock prices, or temperature.
  2. Classification: This type involves predicting a categorical output based on input variables. It solves problems like email spam detection, image recognition, or disease diagnosis.

In addition to these two main types, there are some supervised learning subtypes. One example is binary classification, which predicts one of two possible outputs. Another example is multi-class classification, which predicts one of several possible outputs.

Another subtype of supervised learning is sequence prediction, which involves predicting a sequence of outputs based on a sequence of inputs. This type of learning is used in applications such as speech recognition, language translation, and stock market forecasting.

Overall, supervised learning is a powerful tool in machine learning that can be applied to a wide range of problems. Providing labeled data for training allows machines to learn and make highly accurate predictions.

Supervised learning can be used for various business and scientific applications.

What is unsupervised learning

Unsupervised learning is another type of machine learning where the system is trained on unlabeled data without any specific guidance or supervision. 

The goal is for the system to find patterns or relationships within the data independently

Unlike supervised learning, there is no correct output or target variable to compare the results against. Instead, the system must use clustering, dimensionality reduction, or other methods to identify underlying structures and relationships within the data. 

Unsupervised learning is commonly used in exploratory data analysis and can help uncover hidden insights or anomalies in large datasets.

Advantages of unsupervised learning?

Unsupervised learning has several advantages, including:

  1. Discovery of previously unknown patterns or relationships in data.
  2. Flexibility in handling large and complex datasets.
  3. Ability to handle a variety of data types and structures.
  4. Reduction in the need for human annotation or data labeling, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
  5. Potential for creating more accurate predictive models by providing a better understanding of the underlying structure of the data.

Types of unsupervised learning

There are several types of unsupervised learning, including:

  1. Clustering: This involves grouping data points into clusters based on their similarities or distances from each other.
  2. Dimensionality reduction: This technique reduces the number of features in a dataset while retaining important information.
  3. Anomaly detection: This identifies unusual patterns or data points that differ significantly from the norm.
  4. Association rule learning: This technique discovers relationships or dependencies between different variables in a dataset.
  5. Generative models: This type of unsupervised learning creates new data points that are similar to the existing data, allowing for data augmentation and synthesis.
The goal of unsupervised learning is to discover hidden patterns in the data and group them into categories.

Differences between supervised and unsupervised learning

If you have read the whole post, you will already know that both learning types have different applications and are suitable for different problems. 

The main differences between supervised and unsupervised learning are that supervised learning uses labeled data to train a model to make predictions. In contrast, unsupervised learning uses unlabeled data to identify patterns and structures within the data. 

Supervised learning requires predicting a specific target variable, while unsupervised learning does not have a particular goal or target variable. 

Additionally, supervised learning is more suitable for classification and regression problems, while unsupervised learning is more suitable for clustering and association problems.

Finally, we want to remind you that any use of a digital and technological tool that involves learning should be accompanied by a cybersecurity strategy that includes tools such as proctoring

This will allow you to identify and ensure reliable and secure training for your data scientists’ personal data. 

In this regard, we invite you to try SMOWL’s proctoring tools. Request a free demo and discover how our tools can help you.

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