Noise in Machine Learning

Understanding Noise in Machine Learning

When utilizing real-life data for data mining processes, several factors can impact the data. One significant element is noise, an inevitable issue that demands attention in any data-dependent enterprise.

Data collection often presents opportunities for human error and the potential for unreliable data collection tools leading to inaccuracies commonly referred to as noise. This noise can present challenges in machine learning, as algorithms can misinterpret and generalize from this noise.

If a dataset has a high volume of noise, it can severely disrupt the whole data analysis workflow. Specialists in the field, such as data scientists, often measure noise using a signal to noise ratio. Therefore, data scientists must address and manage noise in their data science algorithms.

Detecting and Removing Machine Learning Noise

Various established methods are used for extracting noise from datasets or signals.

Principal Component Analysis (PCA)

A mathematical approach known as PCA uses the orthogonal attribute to transform a group of possibly correlated variables into uncorrelated ones. These new variables are called "principal components."

PCA aims to eliminate damaged data from a signal or image utilizing preservative noise while keeping the essential features intact. It's a geometric and statistical technique that lowers the input signal data dimensionality by projecting it along different axes. In simple terms, you can imagine projecting a point in the XY plane along the X-axis and subsequently removing the noisy Y-axis. This process is known as "dimensionality reduction." Hence, PCA can reduce noise in input data by eliminating the axes with the noisy data.

Deep De-noising

Auto-encoders have proven effective for de-noising, and a stochastic variant of this is available. Trained auto-encoders can detect noise in a signal or data and then be used as de-noisers by feeding them noisy data to output clean data. Comprising an encoder and a decoder, auto-encoders convert input data into an encoded state and then decode it.

A de-noising auto-encoder simultaneously encodes the input while maintaining as much output detail as possible, and it eliminates the effects of stochastically added noise to the input data. Its main function is to drive the hidden layer to learn robust features, and it is trained to reconstruct the input data from the degraded version while minimizing loss.

Contrastive Datasets

In situations where a dataset contains substantial noise in the form of background patterns that are irrelevant to a data scientist's analysis, an adaptive noise cancellation approach such as the contrastive dataset method can be effective. This technique uses two signals - one the target signal, and the other a clean background signal.

Fourier Transform

If we know our signal or data has a definite structure, we can directly remove noise from it using the Fourier Transform technique. This method converts the signal into the frequency domain where the majority of the signal information is represented by just a few frequencies, while the unpredictable noise is spread across all frequencies.

By only keeping the frequencies containing vital signal information and discarding the rest, most of the noisy data can be filtered out, effectively removing noisy signals from the dataset.


Distinguishing the signal from the noise is a prevalent challenge for today's data scientists as it can cause performance issues like overfitting, leading to abnormal machine learning algorithm behavior. Algorithms might use noise as a basis for generalization. Therefore, the best approach is to eliminate or considerably decrease the noisy data in your signal or dataset.

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