Potentially Controversial Opinion: We Should Stop Using the Words “Machine Learning” and Instead Say “Nonlinear Regression”

Machine learning is useful. It’s great. It can solve lots of problems.

But its not black magic. At the end of the day, all machine learning is is fitting complex functions to data. It’s literally advanced curve fitting.

I feel like the name “machine learning” breeds a sort of mysticism leading to magical thinking and voodoo. It causes confusion among laymen/women and gives people a false impression of the fields of robotics and AI (although I guess the phrase AI has been drifting in meaning). I think these kinds of false impressions can erode confidence and trust in the field in the long run.

Even I, a roboticist, don’t feel immune to this “voodoo effect”. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with substituting “machine learning” with “nonlinear regression” in my head when I make judgements about whether machine learning is appropriate or not. I feel like doing that helps bring me back to well-founded principles.


submitted by /u/allen_adastra
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