AI-Generated Synthetic Data. Explained the best possible way: with… | by Cassie Kozyrkov | Jul, 2023

Explained the best possible way: with cats!

Cassie Kozyrkov
Towards Data Science

Why is AI-generated synthetic data all the rage these days? In this article, I’ll explain my favorite way: with cats!

Let’s say I want to train a cat-not-cat classifier from scratch, but I only have one photo to work with:

The author’s cat, Huxley.

(Everything that follows is an analogy for what people do with tabular data and text data, so it applies beyond image data.)

Ideally, I’m going to need a dataset consisting of thousands of cat and not-cat photos. If I have a camera and plentiful access to cats, I can take a bunch of photos like the one I already have, ensuring that I get exactly the dataset I designed:

A photo I took in a park in Istanbul.

But what if I don’t have a camera and I live catless on the moon? I could get the images I need from a vendor, though I ought to be careful since inherited data is more dangerous than primary data.

Thanks, Pixabay, for being an excellent (free) vendor of cat photos.

But what if there’s no vendor who’ll sell me some cat photos? (Yes, running out of cat photos on the internet is a situation that’s more sci-fi than living on the moon, but bear with me.)

Well, if I can’t collect them and I can’t buy them, then I’ll have to make them myself. Behold, my creation:

Your author is a veritable Michelangelo.

No good? Yeah, drawing was never my strong suit. Another way to make fake data is to copy existing datapoints, except this isn’t going to be much use for providing instructional variety.

This approach fools no one. I’ve still only effectively got one datapoint.

It’ll be like teaching a human student by giving them the same example over and over again, so all they learn is that one thing. If my dataset is 30,000 copies of this Huxley photo…

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.

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