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Prediction Models: Traditional versus Machine Learning

by Jitendra Subramanyam  |  June 8, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

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Machine learning models are constructed differently from traditional quantitative models.

Two Types of Traditional Prediction Models

In the first type of traditional prediction model, the input data set along with statistical assumptions and calculations determine the prediction algorithm. The input data set is analyzed (or “fitted to the data”) using statistical techniques. The prediction algorithm that is the one best suited to describing the data as determined by the statistical analysis.

Traditional Prediction Model

Traditional Prediction Model – Fitting Model to Data

The second type of traditional prediction model uses an explicit set of rules (e.g., if X then Y) to transform the inputs into a prediction. Instead of the prediction algorithm being “discovered” through statistical calculations, these rules are usually ones that are known by experts in the prediction domain (e.g., the medical knowledge physicians have in diagnosing/predicting a disease).

Prediction Based on Rules

Prediction Based on Rules

Machine Learning Models

In contrast to the traditional quant prediction models, machine learning prediction models are developed in two steps.

In the first step, a machine learning model is trained. In this training step the input data, the historical results associated with these inputs, and a training algorithm are used to iteratively arrive at the prediction algorithm.

Machine Learning Model: Training Step

Machine Learning Model: Training Step

At the end of the first step, the model is “trained” and is now ready to make predictions.

In the second step, the prediction step, the trained machine learning model uses the prediction algorithm arrived at in the training step to transform new inputs into predictions.

Trained Machine Learning Model

Trained Machine Learning Model

You may have noticed that I’ve used “model”, and “algorithm”. Is there a difference? This gets us to some terminology that’s useful to have in mind when you read about machine learning.

model is a mathematical expression that transforms inputs into outputs. The model by itself cannot be used to calculate a result. To do so requires fixing the model’s parameter values. In traditional approaches, the parameter values are fixed based on statistical calculations. In machine learning the parameter values are fixed in the process of training the model. Without its parameter values specified, a model is a structure, a shell, a high-level directive for transforming inputs into outputs. With the parameter values specified, the model can be used to generate specific predictions.

An algorithm is a recipe — a clearly defined step by step by step process — for turning a set of inputs into an output.

prediction algorithm is the specific mathematical expression that results once the parameter values of the model are fixed. In machine learning these parameter values are fixed during the iterative training process which itself proceeds by using an algorithm. The most common of these training algorithms is called gradient descent.

Additional Resources

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Category: artificial-intelligence  data-and-analytics-leaders  

Tags: machine-learning  prediction  

Jitendra Subramanyam
VP, Team Manager I
2 years at Gartner
16 years IT Industry

Jitendra Subramanyam leads a research team that is focused on how Chief Data Officers manage the Data and Analytics function in their organizations. Jitendra teaches a course on machine learning at Harvard Extension School. The course is a practical introduction meant to help business executives understand key concepts and techniques in data science and immediately apply them to business problems.Read Full Bio

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