From AI Wiki
See also: Machine learning terms


Preprocessing in machine learning refers to the initial stage of preparing raw data for use in machine learning algorithms. This critical step involves transforming and cleaning the data to enhance its quality, reduce noise, and ensure its compatibility with the chosen machine learning model. By performing preprocessing, data scientists and engineers aim to improve the efficiency and accuracy of machine learning algorithms while mitigating potential issues arising from inconsistencies or inaccuracies within the data.

Types of Preprocessing Techniques

There are various preprocessing techniques employed by data scientists and machine learning engineers to prepare raw data for use in machine learning algorithms. Some of these techniques include:

Data Cleaning

Data cleaning involves the identification and correction of errors and inconsistencies within datasets. This process may include the removal of duplicate entries, fixing data entry errors, and addressing missing or incomplete values. Data cleaning is crucial for improving the quality of data and ensuring that machine learning algorithms produce accurate and reliable results.

Data Transformation

Data transformation involves converting the raw data into a format that can be more easily understood and utilized by machine learning algorithms. Common data transformation techniques include:

  • Normalization: Scaling numeric attributes to a common range, typically between 0 and 1, to ensure that different attributes contribute equally to the model.
  • Standardization: Standardizing the data by transforming it into a distribution with a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1. This process enables machine learning algorithms to work more efficiently with data that has varying scales or units.
  • Categorical encoding: Converting categorical attributes, such as text or nominal data, into numerical values using techniques like one-hot encoding or label encoding.

Feature Engineering

Feature engineering is the process of creating new, more informative features from the raw data or transforming existing features to enhance their usefulness for machine learning algorithms. This may involve combining, aggregating, or decomposing attributes to better represent the underlying patterns or relationships within the data. Feature engineering can help to improve the performance of machine learning models by providing additional information or reducing the dimensionality of the dataset.

Dimensionality Reduction

Dimensionality reduction techniques aim to reduce the number of features or attributes in a dataset while preserving the essential information. This process can help to minimize the curse of dimensionality, reduce computational complexity, and improve model performance. Common dimensionality reduction techniques include:

  • Principal Component Analysis (PCA): A linear transformation technique that projects the data onto a lower-dimensional space, retaining the maximum amount of variance while minimizing the loss of information.
  • t-Distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (t-SNE): A nonlinear dimensionality reduction technique that is particularly effective at visualizing high-dimensional data in a two- or three-dimensional space.

Explain Like I'm 5 (ELI5)

Imagine you have a messy room full of different toys and you want to play a specific game. Before you can start playing, you need to clean up and organize the toys, so you know which ones to use for the game. Preprocessing in machine learning is similar to cleaning up and organizing the toys. It's a way of getting the data ready for the computer to learn from, by fixing any mistakes and organizing it in a way that makes it easier for the computer to understand.