The past decade has seen an explosion of machine learning research and applications; especially, deep learning methods have enabled key advances in many application domains, such as computer vision, speech processing, and game playing.
However, the performance of many machine learning methods is very sensitive to a plethora of design decisions, which constitutes a considerable barrier for new users. This is particularly true in the booming field of deep learning, where human engineers need to select the right neural architectures, training procedures, regularization methods, and hyperparameters of all of these components in order to make their networks do what they are supposed to do with sufficient performance.
This process has to be repeated for every application. Even experts are often left with tedious episodes of trial and error until they identify a good set of choices for a particular dataset.
The field of automated machine learning (AutoML) aims to make these decisions in a data-driven, objective, and automated way: the user simply provides data, and the AutoML system automatically determines the approach that performs best for this particular application. Thereby, AutoML makes state-of-the-art machine learning approaches accessible to domain scientists who are interested in applying machine learning but do not have the resources to learn about the technologies behind it in detail. This can be seen as a democratization of machine learning: with AutoML, customized state-of-the-art machine learning is at everyone’s fingertips.
As we show in this book, AutoML approaches are already mature enough to rival and sometimes even outperform human machine learning experts. Put simply, AutoML can lead to improved performance while saving substantial amounts of time and money, as machine learning experts are both hard to find and expensive.
As a result, commercial interest in AutoML has grown dramatically in recent years, and several major tech companies are now developing their own AutoML systems. We note, though, that the purpose of democratizing machine learning is served much better by open-source AutoML systems than by proprietary paid black-box services