Does Machine Learning Really Work?

  • Tom M. Mitchell


Does machine learning really work? Yes. Over the past decade, machine learning has evolved from a field of laboratory demonstrations to a field of significant commercial value. Machine-learning algorithms have now learned to detect credit card fraud by mining data on past transactions, learned to steer vehicles driving autonomously on public highways at 70 miles an hour, and learned the reading interests of many individuals to assemble personally customized electronic newsAbstracts. A new computational theory of learning is beginning to shed light on fundamental issues, such as the trade-off among the number of training examples available, the number of hypotheses considered, and the likely accuracy of the learned hypothesis. Newer research is beginning to explore issues such as long-term learning of new representations, the integration of Bayesian inference and induction, and life-long cumulative learning. This article, based on the keynote talk presented at the Thirteenth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence, samples a number of recent accomplishments in machine learning and looks at where the field might be headed. [Copyright restrictions preclude electronic publication of this article.]