LIONbook Chapter 12: Top-down clustering: K-means

The LIONbook on machine learning and optimization, written by co-founders of LionSolver software, is provided free for personal and non-profit usage. Chapter 11 looks at Top-down clustering: K-means.

Here is the latest chapter from LIONbook, a new book dedicated to "LION" combination of Machine Learning and Intelligent Optimization, written by the developers of LionSolver software, Roberto Battiti and Mauro Brunato.

This book is freely available on the web.

Here are the previous chapters:

You can also download the entire book here.

The latest chapter is LIONbook Chapter 12: Top-down clustering: K-meansChapter 12: Top-down clustering: K-means.

This chapter starts a new part of the book and enters a new territory. Up to now we considered supervised learning methods, while the issue of this part is:

What can be learnt without teachers and labels?

Like the energy emanating in the above painting by Michelangelo suggests, we are entering a more creative region, which contains concepts related to exploration, discovery, different and unexpected outcomes. The task is not to slavishly follow a teacher but to gain freedom in generating models. In most cases the freedom is not desired but it is the only way to proceed. ...

Clustering has to do with compression of information. When the amount of data is too much for a human to digest, cognitive overload results. Actually, the number of data points chosen for analysis can be reduced by using filters to restrict the range of data values. But this is not always the best choice, as in this case we are filtering data based on individual coordinates, while a more global picture may be preferable.

Clustering methods work by collecting similar points together in an intelligent and data-driven manner, so that one's attention can be concentrated on a small but relevant set of prototypes. The prototype summarizes the information contained in the subset of cases which it represents. When similar cases are grouped together, one can reason about groups instead of individual entities, therefore reducing the number of different possibilities.