Machine learning could soon diagnose cancer earlier

Cape Town - Machine learning - making computers perform functions without specific programming - could be used to diagnose cancer earlier through a process computer scientists call 'advanced deep learning'.  

This is the opinion of Alexander Linden, research analyst specialising in data science, machine learning and advanced algorithms at technology research firm Gartner. Linden was speaking at a round table on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning predictions at the Gartner Symposium, a global technology conference currently taking place in Cape Town. 

Linden said that deep learning, an advanced variation of machine learning, represents a major driver towards artificial intelligence. 

Deep learning is able to deliver superior data fusion capabilities over other machine learning approaches, said Linden. Research from Gartner, meanwhile, predicts that 80% of data scientists will have deep learning in their toolkits by 2018.

He said that deep learning was here to stay.

"It ultimately solves complex, data-rich business problems. Deep learning can, for example, give promising results when interpreting medical images in order to diagnose cancer early.

It can also help improve the sight of visually impaired people, control self-driving vehicles, or recognise and understand a specific person's speech," he said. 

At the Cape Town symposium Gartner showed several breakthroughs in cognitive domains to demonstrate the capabilities of deep learning. 

These include:

• Web services company Baidu's speech-to-text service outperforming humans in similar tasks

• Online payments system PayPal using deep learning to block fraudulent payments and has cut its 'false-alarm' rate in half

Amazon applying deep learning for better product recommendation.

"Data scientists can extract a wide range of knowledge from data, can see an overview of the end-to-end process, and can solve data science problems," Linden said. 

Linden cautioned that machine learning had limitations, with some projects failing due to insufficient data, computer infrastructure or skills.

"A machine learning system can make the best possible decision if it has enough data to learn from - such as millions of priced items and their availability - but it cannot judge whether any of the resulting decisions are okay ethically," Linden said.

  • Kyle Venktess is a guest of Gartner at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017 in Cape Town.

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