Adv Topics: Extracting Knowledge from big data

The evolution of data to wisdom is defined by the DIKW pyramid, where Data is just facts without any context, but when facts are used to understand relationships it generates Information (Almeyer-Stubbe & Coleman, 2014). That information can be used to understand patterns, it can then help build Knowledge, and when that knowledge is used to understand principles, it builds Wisdom (Almeyer-Stubbe & Coleman, 2014; Bellinger, Castro, Mills, n.d.). Building an understanding to jump from one level of the DIKW pyramid, is an appreciation of learning “why” (Bellinger et al., n.d.). Big data was first coined in a Gartner blog post, is data that has high volume, variety, and velocity, but without any interest in understanding that data, data scientist will lack context (Almeyer-Stubbe & Coleman, 2014; Bellinger et al., n.d.; Laney, 2001). Therefore, applying the DIKW pyramid can help turn that big data into extensive knowledge (Almeyer-Stubbe & Coleman, 2014; Bellinger et al., n.d.; Sakr, 2014). Extensive knowledge is a derived from placing meaning to big data usually in the form of predictive analytics algorithms (Sakr, 2014).

Machine learning requires historical data and is part of the data analytics process under data mining to understand hidden patterns or structures within the data (Almeyer-Stubbe & Coleman, 2014). Machine learning is easier to build and maintain than other classical data mining techniques (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010). Machine learning algorithms include clustering, classification, and association rules techniques and the right algorithm from any of these three techniques must be selected that meet the needs of the data (Services, 2015). Unsupervised machine learning techniques like clustering are used when data scientist do not understand or classify data prior to data mining techniques to understand hidden structures within the data set (Brownlee, 2016; Services, 2015). Supervised machine learning involves model training and model testing to aid in understanding which input variables feed into an output variable, involving such techniques as classification and regression (Brownlee, 2016).

An example of an open source Hadoop machine learning algorithm library would include Apache Mahout, which can be found at http://mahout.apache.org (Lublinsky, Smith, & Yakubovich, 2013). A limitation from learning from historical data to predict the future is it can “stifle innovation and imagination” (Almeyer-Stubbe & Coleman, 2014). Another limitation can exist that current algorithms may not run on distributed database systems. Thus some tailoring of the algorithms may be needed (Services, 2015). The future of machine learning involves its algorithms becoming more interactive to the end user, known as active learning (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010).

Case Study: Machine learning, medical diagnosis, and biomedical engineering research – commentary (Foster, Koprowski, & Skufca, 2014)

The authors created a synthetic training data set to simulate a typical medical classification problem of healthy and ill people and assigned random numbers to 10 health variables. Given this information, the actual classification accuracy should be 50%, which is also similar to pure chance alone. These authors found that when classification machine learning algorithms are misapplied, it can lead to false results. This was proven when their model took only 50 people to produce similar accuracy values of pure chance alone. Thus, the authors of this paper were trying to warn the medical field that misapplying classification techniques can lead to overfitting.

The authors then looked at feature selection for classifying Hashimoto’s disease from 250 clinical ultrasound data with the disease and 250 healthy people. Ten variables were selected to help classify these images, and a MATLAB machine learning algorithm was trained on 400 people (200 healthy and 200 ill) to then be tested on 100 people (50 healthy and 50 ill). They were able to show that when 3-4 variables were used they produced better classification results, thus 3-4 variables had huge information gain. This can mislead practitioners, because of the small data set that could be generalized too broadly and the lack of independence between training and testing datasets. The authors argued that larger data sets are needed to get rid of some of the issues that could result in the misapplication of classifiers.

The authors have the following four recommendations when considering the use of supervised machine learning classification algorithms:

    1. Clearly, state the purpose of the study and come from a place of understanding of that problem and its applications.
    2. Minimize the number of a variable when used in classifiers, such as using pruning algorithms in classification algorithms to only select certain variables that meet a certain level of information gain. This is more important with smaller data sets than with big data.
    3. Understand that classifiers are sensitive and that results gained from one set of instances might require further adjustments to be implemented elsewhere.
    4. Classification algorithms and data mining are part of the experimental process not the answer to all problems.

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