7 Major Limitations of Machine Learning


Machine learning has completely changed these sectors, from healthcare to finance to transportation. Nonetheless, it has its limitations, much like any other technology. These limits must be understood for machine learning algorithms to be developed and used effectively.

We will look at seven significant machine learning limitations in this article. These restrictions include more interpretability and transparency, bias and discrimination, over- and under-fitting, computational resources, causation, ethical considerations, and poor data quality. We will detail each restriction, examining why it exists, how it affects machine learning algorithms, and possible solutions.

Limitations of Machine Learning

Machine learning, a method that enables computers to learn from data and make predictions or judgments without being explicitly programmed, has grown in popularity in artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning has its limitations, just like any other technology, and these must be considered before using it in practical situations. The main machine learning restrictions that every data scientist, researcher, and engineer should be aware of are covered in this article.

1. Lack of Transparency and Interpretability

One of its main drawbacks is more transparency and interpretability in machine learning. As they don't reveal how a judgment was made or how it came to be, machine learning algorithms are frequently called "black boxes." This makes it challenging to comprehend how a certain model concluded and might be problematic when explanations are required. For instance, understanding the reasoning behind a particular diagnosis in healthcare might be easier with transparency and interpretability.

A critical drawback of machine learning algorithms that might have substantial ramifications in practical applications is their need for more transparency and interpretability. As they don't reveal how a judgment was made or how it came to be, machine learning algorithms are sometimes called "black boxes." This might make it challenging to comprehend how a certain model concluded and can pose problems when explanations are required.

Increase transparency and interpretability by providing a more thorough description of the decision-making process through explanations. Natural language explanations or decision trees are just two examples of the available explanation formats. Natural language explanations can offer a description of the decision-making process that is readable by humans, making it simpler for non-experts to comprehend. A visual representation of the decision-making process, such as a decision tree, can increase transparency and interpretability.

2. Bias and Discrimination

The possibility for bias and discrimination is a significant flaw in machine learning. Large datasets, which may have data biases, are used to train machine learning systems. If these biases are not addressed, the machine learning system may reinforce them, producing biased results.

The algorithms used in facial recognition are one instance of bias in machine learning. According to research, facial recognition software performs worse on those with darker skin tones, which causes false positive and false negative rates to be higher for people of races. This bias may have significant consequences, particularly in law enforcement and security applications, where false positives may result in unjustified arrests or other undesirable results.

Finally, it is critical to understand that biases and discrimination in machine learning algorithms frequently emerge from larger social and cultural biases. To address these biases, there has to be a larger push for inclusion and diversity in the design and use of machine learning algorithms.

3. Overfitting and Underfitting

Machine learning algorithms frequently have two limitations: overfitting and underfitting. Overfitting is a condition where a machine learning model performs poorly on new, unknown data because it needs to be simplified and has been trained too successfully on the training data. On the other side, underfitting happens when a machine learning model is overly simplistic and unable to recognize the underlying patterns in the data, resulting in subpar performance on both the training data and fresh data.

Regularization, cross-validation, and ensemble approaches are examples of techniques that can be used to alleviate overfitting and underfitting. When a model is regularised, a penalty term is added to the loss function to prevent the model from growing too complex. Cross-validation includes splitting the data into training and validation sets so that the model's performance can be assessed and its hyperparameters can be adjusted. To enhance performance, ensemble approaches combine several models.

While developing predictive models using machine learning, overfitting, and underfitting are frequent problems. When a model is overtrained and excessively sophisticated on a small dataset, overfitting occurs, which results in a good performance on training data but poor generalization to new data. Conversely, underfitting occurs when a model needs to be more complex and adequately represent the underlying relationships in the data, resulting in subpar performance on training and test data. Using regularisation methods like L1 and L2 regularisation is one way to prevent overfitting. The objective function receives a penalty term during regularisation that restricts the magnitude of the model's parameters. Another method is early stopping, in which training is halted when a model's performance on a validation set stops advancing.

A common method for assessing a machine learning model's performance and fine-tuning its hyperparameters is cross-validation. The dataset is divided into folds, and the model is trained and tested on each fold. Overfitting can be prevented, and a more precise estimate of the model's performance can be obtained.

4. Limited Data Availability

A major challenge for machine learning is the need for more available data. Machine learning algorithms need a lot of data to learn and produce precise predictions. However, there might need to be more data available or only restricted access to it in many fields. Due to privacy considerations, it might be difficult to get medical data, while data from sporadic events, such as natural catastrophes, may be of restricted scope.

Researchers are looking into novel techniques for creating synthetic data that may be used to supplement small datasets to address this constraint. To expand the amount of data accessible for training machine learning algorithms, efforts are also being made to enhance data sharing and collaboration across enterprises.

A major obstacle to machine learning is the need for more available data. Addressing this restriction will need for a concerted effort across industries and disciplines to improve data collection, sharing, and reinforcement in order to ensure that machine learning algorithms can continue to be helpful in a variety of applications.

5. Computational Resources

Machine learning algorithms can be computationally expensive, and they may require a lot of resources to be successfully trained. This may be a major barrier, particularly for people or smaller companies who want access to high-performance computing resources. Distributed and cloud computing can be used to get around this restriction, however the project's cost might go up.

For huge datasets and complex models, machine learning approaches can be computationally expensive. The scalability and feasibility of machine learning algorithms may be hampered by the need for significant processing resources. The availability of computational resources like processor speed, memory, and storage is another limitation on machine learning.

Using cloud computing is one way to overcome the computational resource barrier. Users can scale up or decrease their use of computer resources according to their demands using cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, which offer on-demand access to computing resources. The cost and difficulty of maintaining computational resources can be greatly decreased.

To lower the computing demands, optimizing the data preprocessing pipelines and machine learning algorithms is crucial. This may entail the use of more effective algorithms, a decrease in the data's dimensionality, and the removal of pointless or redundant information.

6. Lack of Causality

Predictions based on correlations in the data are frequently made using machine learning algorithms. Machine learning algorithms may not shed light on the underlying causal links in the data because correlation does not always imply causation. This may reduce our capacity for precise prediction when causality is crucial.

The absence of causation is one of machine learning's main drawbacks. The main purpose of machine learning algorithms is to find patterns and correlations in data; however, they cannot establish causal links between different variables. In other words, machine learning models can forecast future events based on seen data, but they cannot explain why such events occur.

A major drawback of using machine learning models to judge is the absence of causality. For instance, if a machine learning model is used to forecast the likelihood that a consumer would buy a product, it may find factors like age, income, and gender that are connected with buying behavior. The model, however, is unable to determine if these variables are the source of the buying behaviour or whether there are further underlying causes.

To get over this restriction, machine learning may need to be integrated with other methodologies like experimental design. Researchers can identify causal relationships by manipulating variables and observing how those changes impact a result using an experimental design. However, compared to traditional machine learning techniques, this approach may require more time and resources.

Machine learning can be a useful tool for predicting outcomes from observable data, but it's crucial to be aware of its limitations when making decisions based on these predictions. The lack of causation is a basic flaw in machine learning systems. To establish causation, it could be necessary to use methods other than machine learning.

7. Ethical Considerations

Machine learning models can have major social, ethical, and legal repercussions when used to make judgments that affect people's lives. Machine learning models, for instance, may have a differential effect on groups of individuals when used to make employment or lending choices. Privacy, security, and data ownership must also be addressed when adopting machine learning models.

The ethical issue of bias and discrimination is a major one. If the training data is biased or the algorithms are not created in a fair and inclusive manner, biases and discrimination in society may be perpetuated and even amplified by machine learning algorithms.

Another important ethical factor is privacy. Machine learning algorithms can collect and process large amounts of personal data, which raises questions about how that data is utilized and safeguarded.

Accountability and transparency are also crucial ethical factors. It is essential to ensure that machine learning algorithms are visible and understandable and that systems are in place to hold the creators and users of these algorithms responsible for their actions.

Finally, there are ethical issues around how machine learning will affect society. More sophisticated machine learning algorithms may have far-reaching social, economic, and political repercussions that require careful analysis and regulation.


In conclusion, machine learning is a useful technology with some drawbacks. These limits must be understood for machine learning algorithms to be developed and used effectively. To ensure that we are utilizing this technology in ways that benefit society, it is crucial to be aware of these constraints and difficulties as the usage of machine learning continues to grow. We can develop machine learning algorithms that are more accurate, dependable, and inclusive by tackling problems like prejudice, lack of transparency, and ethical considerations.

Updated on: 29-Mar-2023

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