Definition

supervised learning

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Supervised learning, in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, is a type of system in which both input and desired output data are provided. Input and output data are labelled for classification to provide a learning basis for future data processing.

Supervised machine learning systems provide the learning algorithms with known quantities to support future judgments. Chatbots, self-driving cars, facial recognition programs, expert systems and robots are among the systems that may use either supervised or unsupervised learning. Supervised learning systems are mostly associated with retrieval-based AI but they may also be capable of using a generative learning model. 

Training data for supervised learning includes a set of examples with paired input subjects and desired output (which is also referred to as the supervisory signal). In supervised learning for image processing, for example, an AI system might be provided with labelled pictures of vehicles in categories such as cars and trucks. After a sufficient amount of observation, the system should be able to distinguish between and categorize unlabeled images, at which time training can be said to be complete.

Supervised learning models have some advantages over the unsupervised approach, but they also have limitations. The systems are more likely to make judgments that humans can relate to, for example, because humans have provided the basis for decisions. However, in the case of a retrieval-based method, supervised learning systems have trouble dealing with new information. If a system with categories for cars and trucks is presented with a bicycle, for example, it would have to be incorrectly lumped in one category or the other. If the AI system was generative, however, it may not know what the bicycle is but would be able to recognize it as belonging to a separate category.

Georgia Tech profs explain supervised learning:

This was last updated in December 2016

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