Machine Learning: More Inspiration from the Modern Technology

Source: George Seif (Towards Data Science)

Since last year, I have heard of ‘Machine Learning’ for so many times that I become very curious about what it is. Montreal has become a hub of Machine Learning thanks to talented scientists in this city. For me, it is both exciting and mysterious to witness the birth and development of Siri and Google Home, and to benefit from search engines on a daily basis. Although the ads on Facebook become sometimes annoying, I have to admit that the automatic playlist on YouTube is quite convenient.

Recently, I have participated in a workshop concerning concepts about machine learning. Let’s temporarily remove the computer programming and mathematics from it – machine learning is basically a computer that can improve its pre-set model after receiving proper feedbacks. Thinking about what we had to do a few decades ago using paper and pen, the development of soft- and hardware has significantly facilitated the analysis of large amount of data, which makes machine learning possible. I am definitely not an expert of machine learning nor computer science, but in chemistry, computational chemistry becomes one of the most powerful tools to predict or analyze the reactions, structures, and the mechanisms. When it is extremely unlikely to observe experimental evidence, chemists calculate the energy of different transition states and identify the pathway with lowest energy (thinking of going downhill, which is one of the favourites of Mother Nature). The theoretical calculation is actually possible to be proven by experimental design; if not, it can still shed light on the research of reaction mechanism, for example.

As a pure synthetic chemist, I don’t sit in front of the computer to obtain data, but I did use data analysis to help me design my experiment before. There’s a popular concept in chemistry called High-Throughput, which means screening all the conditions possible. By human beings, this sounds like a Mission Impossible. By testing a few data points assigned by computer based on preliminary results, the software can guide you to try experiments with higher successful rate after getting the first batch of data. It sounds far from those humanoid AI like C-3PO, but this is part of machine learning. Even filtering spams from our mailbox is executed by algorithms in machine learning!

Since we are living in the Age of Technology, embracing these tools can make our life easier and merrier. No matter what major you are in, getting to know the frontier of modern tech can only help you when you are writing essays, analyzing data, building up a model, or just looking for suggestions on YouTube :D.

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