Artificial intelligence might seem intimidating, but it isn’t actually as complex as you might think. Many of the tools that have been developed over the last decade or so have all helped to make artificial intelligence and machine learning more accessible to engineers with varying degrees of experience and knowledge.
Today, we’ve got to a stage where it’s now accessible even to people who have barely written a line of code in their life! Pretty exciting, right?
But if you’re completely new to the field, it can be challenging to know how to get started – fortunately, we’re about to help you overcome that first hurdle. If you are an AI denier, then be sure to first read ‘why learn Machine Learning as a non-techie’ before you move forward. A strong purpose and belief is the first step to learning anything new.
Alright, now here’s how you can get started with artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques quickly.
0. Use a free MLaaS or a no code interactive machine learning tool to experience first hand what is possible with learning machine learning: Some popular examples of no code machine learning as a service option are Microsoft Azure, BigML, Orange, and Amazon ML. Read Q2 under the FAQ section below to know more on this topic.
1. Learn Linear Algebra: Linear Algebra is the elementary unit for ML. It helps you effectively comprehend the theory behind the Machine learning algorithms and how they work. It also improves your math skills such as statistics, programming skills, which are all other skills that helps in ML.
2. Learn just enough Python or any programming: Now, you can get started with any language of your interest, but we suggest Python as it’s great for people who are new to programming. It’s easy to learn due to its simple syntax. You’ll be able to quickly implement the ML algorithms. Also, It has a rich development ecosystem that offers a ton of libraries and frameworks in Machine Learning such as Scikit Learn, Lasagne, Numpy, Scipy, Theano, Tensorflow, etc.
3. Learn basic Probability Theory and statistics: A lot of fundamental Statistical and Probability Theories form the basis for ML. You’ve probably already learned Probability and statistics in school, it easy to dive into advanced statistics for ML. Machine learning in its currently widely used form is a way to predict odds and see patterns. Knowing statistics and probability is important as it will help you with better understanding of why any machine learning algorithm works. For example, your grounding in this area, will help to ask the right questions, choose the right set of algorithms and know what to expect as answers from your ML model on questions such as:
- What are the odds of this person also liking this movie given their current movie watching choices ( Collaborative filtering and content-based filtering)
- How similar is this user to that group of users who brought a bunch of stuff on my site (clustering, collaborative filtering, and classification)
- Could this person be at risk of cancer given a certain set of traits and health indicator observations (logistic regression)
- Should you buy that stock (decision tree)
Also, check out our interview with James D. Miller to know more about why learning stats is important in this field.
4. Learn machine learning algorithms: Do not get intimidated! You don’t have to be an expert to learn ML algorithms. Knowing basic ML algorithms that are majorly used in the real world applications like linear regression, naive Bayes, and decision trees, are enough to get you started. Learn what they do and how they are used in Machine Learning.
5. Learn numpy sci-kit learn,Keras or any other popular machine learning framework: It can be confusing initially to decide which framework to learn. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. Numpy is a linear algebra library which is useful for performing mathematical and logical operations. You can easily work with large multidimensional arrays using Numpy.
Sci-kit learn helps with quick implementation of popular algorithms on datasets as just one line of code makes different algorithms available for you. Keras is minimalistic and straightforward with high-levels of extensibility, so it is easier to approach.
If you have reached till here, it is time to put your learning into practice. Go ahead and create a simple linear regression model using some publicly available dataset in your area of interest. Kaggle, ourworldindata.org, UC Irvine Machine Learning repository, elitedatascience, all have a rich set of clean datasets in varied fields.
Now, it is necessary to commit and put in daily efforts to practise these skills. Quora, Reddit, Medium, and stackoverflow will be your best friends when it comes to solving doubts regarding any of these skills. Data Helpers is another great resource that provides newcomers with help on queries regarding entering the ML field and related topics.
Additionally, once you start getting hang of these skills, identify your strengths and interests, to realign your career goals. Research on the kind of work you want to put your newly gained Machine Learning skill to use. It needn’t be professional or serious, it just needs to be something that you deeply care about or are passionate about. This will pull you through your learning milestones, should you feel low at some point.
Also, don’t forget to collaborate with other people and learn from them. You can work with web developers, software programmers, data analysts, data administrators, game developers etc. Finally, keep yourself updated with all the latest happenings in the ML world. Follow top experts and influencers on social media, top blogs on Machine Learning, and conferences. Once you are done checking off these steps off your list, you’ll be ready to start off with your ML project.
Now, we’ll be looking at the most frequently asked questions by beginners in the field of Machine learning.
Frequently asked questions by Beginners in ML
As a beginner, it’s natural to have a lot of questions regarding ML. We’ll be addressing the top three frequently asked questions by beginners or non-programmers when it comes to Machine learning:
Q.1 I am looking to make a career in Machine learning but I have no prior programming experience. Do I need to know programming for Machine learning?
In a nutshell, Yes. If you want a career in Machine learning then having some form of programming knowledge really helps. As mentioned earlier in this article, learning a programming language can really help you with implementing ML algorithms. It also lets you know the internal mechanism behind Machine learning. So, having programming as a prior skill is great. Again, as mentioned before, you can get started with Python which is the easiest and the most common languages for ML.
However, programming is just a part of Machine learning. For instance, “machine learning engineers” typically write more code than develop models, while “research scientists” work more on modelling and analyzing different models. Now, ML is based on the principles of statistical inference and for talking statistically to the computer, we need a language, there comes Coding.
So, even though the nature of your job in ML might not require you to code as much, there’s still some amount of coding required.
Q.2 Are there any tools that can help me with Machine learning without touching a single line of code?
Yes. With the rise of MLaaS (Machine learning as a service), there are certain tools that help you get started with machine learning right-away. These are especially useful for business applications of ML, such as predictive modelling and clustering.
Read Also: How MLaaS is transforming cloud
Some of the most popular ones are:
- BigML: This cloud based web-service lets you upload your data, prepare it and run algorithms on it. It’s great for people with not so extensive data science backgrounds. It offers a clean and easy to use interfaces for configuring algorithms (decision trees) and reviewing the results. Being focused “only” on Machine Learning, it comes with a wide set of features, all well integrated within a usable Web UI. Other than that, it also offers an API so that if you like it you can build an application around it.
- Microsoft Azure: The Microsoft Azure ML studio is a “GUI-based integrated development environment for constructing and operationalizing Machine Learning workflow on Azure”. So, via an integrated development environment called ML Studio, people without data science background or non-programmers can also build data models with the help of drag-and-drop gestures and simple data flow diagrams. This also saves a lot of time through ML Studio’s library of sample experiments.
- Orange: This is an open source machine learning and data visualization studio for novice and experts alike. It provides a toolbox comprising of text mining (topic modelling) and image recognition. It also offers a design tool for visual programming which allows you to connect together data preparation, algorithms, and result evaluation, thereby, creating machine learning “programs”. Apart from that, it provides over 100 widgets for the environment and there’s also a Python API and library available which you can integrate into your application.
- Amazon ML: Amazon ML is a part of Amazon Web Services ( AWS ) that combines powerful machine learning algorithms with interactive visual tools to guide you towards easily creating, evaluating, and deploying machine learning models. So, whether you are a data scientist or a newbie, it offers ML services and tools tailored to meet your needs and level of expertise. Building ML models using Amazon ML consists of three operations: data analysis, model training, and evaluation.
Q.3 Do I need to know advanced mathematics ( college graduate level ) to learn Machine learning?
It depends. As mentioned earlier, understanding of the following mathematical topics: Probability, Statistics and Linear Algebra can really make your machine learning journey easier and also help simplify your code. These help you understand the “why” behind the working of the machine learning algorithms, which is quite fundamental to understanding ML.
However, not knowing advanced mathematics is not an excuse to not learning Machine Learning. There a lot of libraries which makes the task of applying an ML algorithm to solve a task easier. One such example is the widely used Python’s scikit-learn library. With scikit-learn, you just need one line of code and you’ll have the most common algorithms there for you, ready to be used.
But, if you want to go deeper into machine learning then knowing advanced mathematics is a prerequisite as it will help you understand the algorithms, the formulas, how the learning is done and many other Machine Learning concepts. Also, with so many courses and tutorials online, you can always learn advanced mathematics on the side while exploring Machine learning.
So, we looked at the three most asked questions by beginners in the field of Machine Learning.
In the past, machine learning has provided us with self-driving cars, effective web search, speech recognition, etc. Machine learning is extremely pervasive, in fact, many researchers believe that ML is the best way to make progress towards human-level AI.
Learning ML is not an easy task but its not next to impossible either. In the end, it all depends on the amount of dedication and efforts that you’re willing to put in to get a grasp of it. We just touched the tip of the iceberg in this article, there’s a lot more to know in Machine Learning which you will get a hang of as you get your feet dirty in it. That being said, all the best for the road ahead!