Machine Learning Paired with Skilled Data Scientists is the Future of Data-Driven Decision Making

Oct 3, 2017

Although the term Machine Learning (ML) was coined in 1959, it’s advancement and development has never been more critical than it is today, particularly within government agencies. As the amount of data being produced, manipulated, and stored exponentially increases, so does the very real threat of cyber-security breaches and fraud. Meanwhile, federal budgets and staff resources continue to decrease. ML can provide high-value services for federal agencies including data management and analytics, security threat detection, and process improvement—but the list does not stop there.

Machine Learning is a type of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that takes human-input data, analyzes it, and learns from it. Three types of learning can occur: supervised learning in which the machine analyzes past high quality data and makes decisions about future data with the learned knowledge, unsupervised learning in which the machine makes inferences about future data based on patterns it finds within past data, and a combination of the two.

Machine learning improves artificial intelligence ability for predictions.

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According to a recent MeriTalk survey, 81% of feds are currently utilizing some form of Big Data analytics for cybersecurity, while only 45% found their efforts to be “highly effective.” These numbers are staggering considering that Big Data is still a relatively new discipline to most people. Google Trends Analyses show that traditional Big Data is being phased out just as fast as it initially exploded, and that it will soon be replaced with AI applications and Machine Learning.

But not to fear, Machine Learning will not replace humans; not yet anyway. This is where data scientists come in. Data scientists are a critical component of Machine Learning for analytics and data-based predictions. Data scientists conduct statistical and algorithm modeling, and determine which ML platform is best suited for the data. R and Python are currently the two most popular programming languages in ML. More importantly, the data scientist must determine what the machine will do with the data. Innovative companies such as Yelp, Facebook, and Google have already fully implemented ML into their platforms.  For example, for a company like Yelp, the site’s tens of millions of images ARE its data set.  Highly skilled data scientists must first teach the bot how to classify the existing images as well as rules for classifying future images.

Of course, most federal agencies wouldn’t consider images a major component of their critical data; however the same concepts can be applied to whatever data needs to be classified, analyzed, secured, or visualized.

As Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies improve, the need for highly trained data scientists will only increase. Very soon, machines will have the ability to conduct more accurate analysis with even less data, but this will only be possible with expert statistical modeling and perfected algorithms created by data scientists. According to Dr. Heather Benz, Applied Biomedical Engineer, Johns Hopkins; “We are teaching more and more of our engineering students about how to design next-generation technologies that incorporate machine learning. There will only be an increase in need for individuals who can understand, design, and leverage these tools. They have broad applications in everything from business intelligence to consumer electronics to medical devices, but there is a lot of nuance to how they’re built, used, and validated.”

Sorry to disappoint all of you “Terminator” fans out there, but I don’t think the robots will be taking over the world anytime soon. Instead, the robots can help to protect mission-critical information and advance public health and public service missions across the federal government.

A 3-D rendering of a robot face against a dark abstract background of blue bokeh lights and buildings.

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Learn more about some innovative ways that federal agencies are utilizing Machine Learning:

Disclaimer: All references to specific brands and/or companies are used only for illustrative purposes and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. federal government or any federal government agency.

Interested in connecting with other feds exploring machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and similar innovations? Check out our new Emerging Citizen Technology program and join the related Communities of Practice.