CHAPTER 1The Two Essential Algorithms for Making Predictions

This book focuses on the machine learning process and so covers just a few of the most effective and widely used algorithms. It does not provide a survey of machine learning techniques. Too many of the algorithms that might be included in a survey are not actively used by practitioners.

This book deals with one class of machine learning problems, generally referred to as function approximation. Function approximation is a subset of problems that are called supervised learning problems. Linear regression and its classifier cousin, logistic regression, provide familiar examples of algorithms for function approximation problems. Function approximation problems include an enormous breadth of practical classification and regression problems in all sorts of arenas, including text classification, search responses, ad placements, spam filtering, predicting customer behavior, diagnostics, and so forth. The list is almost endless.

Broadly speaking, this book covers two classes of algorithms for solving function approximation problems: penalized linear regression methods and ensemble methods. This chapter introduces you to both of these algorithms, outlines some of their characteristics, and reviews the results of comparative studies of algorithm performance in order to demonstrate their consistent high performance.

This chapter then discusses the process of building predictive models. It describes the kinds of problems that ...

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