Emerging Areas of Technology, Part 2, Number 4

(Bayesian Machine Learning)

Technological applications in the tech area of "Bayesian Machine Learning"

4. Bayesian Machine Learning: Research using a once obscure branch of probability theory called Bayesian statistics is generating more excitement than skepticism.

Programs are being created that, while tackling questions such as how genes function, are also illuminating deeper truths about the long-standing computer science conundrum of uncertainty; learning patterns, finding causal relationships, and making predictions based on inevitably incomplete knowledge of the real world.

Such methods promise to advance the fields of foreign-language translation, microchip manufacturing, and drug discovery, among others, initiating a surge of interest from leading companies and universities.

How does an idea conceived by an 18th-century minister, Thomas Bayes, help modern computer science?

Unlike older approaches to machine reasoning, in which each causal connection ("rain makes grass wet") had to be explicitly taught, programs based on probabilistic approaches like Bayesian math can take a large body of data ("it's raining," "the grass is wet") and deduce likely relationships, or "dependencies", on their own.

That's crucial because many decisions programmers would like to automate; for example, personalizing search engine results according to a user's past queries can't be planned in advance; they require machines to weigh unforeseen combinations of evidence and make their best guesses.

It is believed that these techniques are going to impact everything we do with computers; from user interfaces, to sensor data processing, and to data mining.

Researchers are adapting methods for an extensive number of practical applications. Among them: robots that can autonomously map hazardous, abandoned mines; and programs under development that interpret test data on the quality of semiconductor wafers.

In addition, Google is using Bayesian methods to find and exploit patterns in the vast amount of interconnected data on the internet.

Number 5, T-Rays is next.

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