Glossary: AI model training

AI model training is an essential aspect of artificial intelligence (AI) in which a machine learning (ML) algorithm learns from data to perform specific tasks.


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Artificial intelligence (AI) model training is a process in which a machine learning (ML) model learns patterns, relationships, and features from input data to make predictions, classify information, or generate insights. This process involves iterative learning, where the model adjusts its parameters to minimize errors and improve its performance.

AI model training methods

Several methods and techniques are employed in AI model training, each catering to different learning approaches and problem areas. Deciding which model to use depends on the nature of the problem, the type of data available, and the desired outcome. Here are several standard AI model training methods:

Supervised learning

In supervised learning, the algorithm learns from labeled training data, where input data is paired with the corresponding output. The model aims to learn the mapping between input and output. 

Some examples of algorithms that often train using supervised learning are:

  • Linear regression
  • Logistic regression
  • Decision trees
  • Support vector machines (SVM)
  • Neural networks

Unsupervised learning

Unsupervised learning deals with unlabeled data. Its goal is to find patterns, structures, or relationships within the data without providing the algorithm with specific guidance.

Training with unsupervised learning benefits algorithms such as:

  • Clustering algorithms such as K-means and hierarchical clustering
  • Dimensionality reduction techniques such as principal component analysis (PCA) and t-distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (t-SNE)
  • Generative adversarial networks (GANs)

Semi-supervised learning

This method uses a combination of labeled and unlabeled data for training. It aims to use abundant unlabeled data to enhance the model's performance.

Some example algorithms that train with semi-supervised learning include:

  • Self-training
  • Co-training
  • Multiview learning

Reinforcement learning

Reinforcement learning involves an agent learning to make decisions by interacting with the environment. The agent receives feedback through rewards or penalties, which help guide it toward optimal behavior.

Reinforcement learning can help train such algorithms as:

  • Q-learning
  • Deep Q Networks (DQN)
  • Policy Gradient methods

Transfer learning

Transferring knowledge from one task or domain to another is called transfer learning. This method involves pre-trained models that were trained on large datasets. Developers fine-tune or adapt these models to perform specific tasks with smaller amounts of data.

Some example techniques within transfer learning include:

  • Feature extraction
  • Fine-tuning pre-trained models such as Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT), Residual Networks (ResNets), and Generative Pre-Trained Transformers (GPT)

Online and batch learning

Online learning involves continuous training on incoming data, which updates the model in real-time. Batch learning encompasses training the model on fixed batches of data. 

Developers can use online learning for streaming data such as financial markets and Internet of Things (IoT) sensor data. Batch learning is good for algorithms that require periodic updates, such as recommendation engines.

Evolutionary algorithms

These algorithms, inspired by natural selection, use techniques such as genetic algorithms, evolutionary strategies, or genetic programming to evolve solutions to problems.

Some use cases for evolutionary algorithms include:

  • Optimization problems
  • Neural architecture search
  • Complex system design

The AI model training process

The process of training an AI model involves several steps, each of which is critical for creating an accurate and efficient model. The sequence or specifics may vary depending on the nature of the problem, the type of data, and the requirements of the AI application in development.

1. Data collection

Researchers gather relevant and diverse datasets that represent the problem domain they will design the model to address.

2. Data preprocessing

The data that powers AI models must be cleaned, preprocessed, and organized to ensure its quality and relevance. Data preprocessing involves:

  • Removing noise
  • Handling missing values
  • Normalizing or standardizing features
  • Splitting the data into training, validation, and test sets

3. Feature engineering

Developers select or create relevant features from the data that the model can learn from most effectively. This step involves transforming raw data into a format that the model can understand.

4. Model selection

How to choose the appropriate algorithm or model architecture depends on the problem at hand. It could be a decision tree, neural network, SVM, or another type.

5. Training

Developers input the prepared data to train the selected model. During this phase, the model learns patterns and relationships within the data by adjusting its parameters through iterations or epochs.

6. Evaluation

After training, developers assess the model's performance using various metrics, such as accuracy, precision, and recall, on a separate validation dataset. This step double-checks that the model generalizes well to new, unseen data.

7. Hyperparameter tuning

Developers fine-tune the model to further improve its performance by adjusting hyperparameters, such as learning rate, batch size, and number of layers.

8. Validation

The model receives validation on a test dataset that it has never seen before to confirm its generalization and performance in real-world scenarios.

9. Deployment

Developers integrate the trained model into the desired application or system for inference and use.

10. Monitoring and maintenance

Continuous motoring is essential after deployment. Developers should monitor the model's performance in production, retrain periodically with new data, and update the model as necessary to maintain its effectiveness.