Learn the Difference Between Real and Fake Machine Learning

There are few technologies as misunderstood right now as Machine Learning. Some think it’s 100% hype, sales, and marketing, and others think it’s humanity’s Messiah in the form of math and code. Unfortunately, there’s currently not a lot of space between those two extremes.

Here’s how I think about it.

Machine Learning is much like Love and Sex. If you take the time to learn about them, in their true forms, they truly are MAGICAL. But if you see someone lead with them— when they’re trying to sell you something—you can almost guarantee they’re lying to you.

I think machine learning should be thought about a lot more like statistics in the sense that they:

  1. Can be both simple and complex

  2. Are both interesting and boring

  3. Are often executed well and poorly

  4. Can deliver magic, truth, lies, or all three simultaneously

Machine Learning isn’t much different in these regards. It’s an approach to looking at, and modeling, the world. If it’s done well it can yield tremendous insight and even prediction. And if it’s done poorly—or unethically—it can take us down an unlit and dangerous path.

So it’s like any powerful tool really.

Even if it’s implemented correctly, you might also need to ask if it’s implemented ethically.

But for any powerful tool that’s in its infancy, you need to learn the difference between those who are talking alchemy and those who are talking chemistry. Alchemists always come first, and you must be cautious of them not because they’ll always be wrong, but because they’ll be right sometimes—and sometimes not—which is often worse.

Do not discard machine learning as foolish, or hype, or a fad. It truly is one of the most powerful technologies every invented, and ignoring it will put you at a major disadvantage against competitors who do implement it.

But also avoid getting involved in products or solutions just because ML is part of the pitch. At this stage there’s a significant chance that they’re doing it just to say they have, and there’s little guarantee that it’s even needed, or that it’s being implemented correctly.

In short, machine learning really is messianic in its capabilities and potential, but because it’s also a buzzword being used by every marketing department on the planet the industry is permeated with garbage bearing the name.

Learning the difference will benefit you greatly.

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