What is Ensemble Learning: Artificial Intelligence Explained




Several different types of robots working together to solve a complex puzzle

Ensemble Learning is a powerful machine learning concept that involves the combination of several models to solve a single predictive problem. It works by generating multiple classifiers/models which learn and make predictions independently. Those predictions are then combined into a single (meta) prediction that should be as good or better than the prediction made by any one classifier.

Ensemble Learning is primarily used to improve the performance of Machine Learning models by combining several models into one. The main hypothesis is that when several different models are combined, the resultant prediction is more robust and less prone to errors than any single model. The ensemble methods are known for their ability to provide higher stability and robustness, thus helping to overcome the problem of overfitting.

Types of Ensemble Learning

There are several types of ensemble learning methods, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The choice of ensemble learning method largely depends on the problem at hand and the performance of the individual models.

The most common types of ensemble learning methods include Bagging, Boosting, and Stacking. Each of these methods has a different approach to combining models and making predictions. Let’s delve into each of these methods in detail.


Bagging, also known as Bootstrap Aggregating, is a simple and very effective ensemble method. Bagging is used when the goal is to reduce the variance of a decision tree classifier. Here the objective is to create several subsets of data from the original dataset, with replacement. The multiple models are then trained on these different subsets. The final prediction is averaged across the predictions of all the classifiers.

The most common example of bagging is the Random Forest algorithm. In Random Forest, we grow multiple trees as opposed to a single tree. To classify a new object based on attributes, each tree gives a classification. The forest chooses the classification having the most votes (over all the trees in the forest).


Boosting is another ensemble learning method that works on the philosophy of learners. Here, learners are learned sequentially with early learners fitting simple models to the data and then analyzing data for errors. In other words, we fit consecutive trees (random sample), and at every step, the goal is to solve for net error from the prior tree.

When we have a new test dataset, it would make predictions for each data point and the final prediction would be a weighted sum of these predictions. For instance, in an AdaBoost algorithm, each new tree in the sequence focuses on correcting the mistakes that were made by the previous tree.


Stacking (also called Stacked Generalization) is an ensemble learning technique that uses predictions from multiple models (for example decision tree, knn or svm) to build a new model. This model is used for making predictions on the test set. Here, we train multiple models on the same dataset. A meta-model is then applied to input these model predictions as features for the final prediction.

Stacking is a very interesting way to combine information. It provides a way to leverage a group of poor performing models, with the hope to create a better performing model. However, it is important to note that stacking can lead to an increase in complexity due to the process of combining information.

Benefits of Ensemble Learning

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Ensemble learning offers numerous benefits, which have led to its widespread use in a variety of machine learning problems. The primary benefit of ensemble learning is the improvement in prediction performance. By combining several models, ensemble methods can leverage the strengths of each to improve the final prediction, and ideally, overcome any individual weaknesses.

Another key benefit of ensemble learning is its ability to handle high dimensionality. In many real-world problems, the number of features can be very large, often in the order of hundreds or thousands. Ensemble learning is particularly effective for these problems, as it can train different models on different subsets of features, thereby effectively reducing the dimensionality.

Reduction in Variance

The main objective of ensemble learning is to reduce the variance. When a single model is used, the prediction is likely to have a high variance, especially in the case of nonlinear models. This is because the model will fit the noise present in the training data, which leads to overfitting. However, when multiple models are used, the variance of the prediction is reduced, as the noise from each model is averaged out.

This is particularly useful in scenarios where the model needs to make predictions on unseen data. Since the variance of the prediction is reduced, the model is less likely to produce wildly different predictions for small changes in the input.

Improvement in Accuracy

Ensemble learning methods are meta-algorithms that combine several machine learning techniques into one predictive model in order to decrease variance (bagging), bias (boosting), or improve predictions (stacking). Ensemble methods can be used for both classification and regression problems, which provides a significant boost in the machine learning model performance, hence they are highly desirable.

By combining several models, ensemble learning can often significantly improve the prediction accuracy, especially in cases where the individual models have complementary strengths. For example, one model might be good at recognizing patterns in one type of data, while another model might be good at recognizing patterns in a different type of data. By combining these models, ensemble learning can leverage the strengths of each to improve the overall accuracy.

Challenges of Ensemble Learning

While ensemble learning offers numerous benefits, it also comes with its own set of challenges. One of the main challenges is the increased complexity. Since ensemble learning involves training multiple models instead of a single model, it requires more computational resources. This can be a problem in scenarios where resources are limited, or when the dataset is very large.

Another challenge of ensemble learning is the difficulty in interpreting the model. While individual models like decision trees and linear regression can be easily interpreted, this is not the case with ensemble models. Since ensemble models involve multiple underlying models, it can be difficult to understand how the model is making its predictions.

Increased Complexity

Ensemble learning involves combining multiple machine learning models. This naturally increases the complexity of the model, as now the prediction is based on the predictions of multiple models. This increased complexity can lead to longer training times, increased memory usage, and slower prediction times. In some cases, the increase in complexity might not be justified by the improvement in prediction performance.

Furthermore, the complexity of ensemble learning models makes them more difficult to implement. This is because they require the simultaneous training of multiple models, which can be computationally intensive. Therefore, they may not be suitable for applications where computational resources are limited.


One of the main advantages of simple models like linear regression or decision trees is their interpretability. It is easy to understand how these models make their predictions, as they can provide clear decision rules. However, this is not the case with ensemble models.

Ensemble models involve multiple underlying models, and the final prediction is based on the predictions of all these models. This makes it difficult to understand how the model is making its predictions, as the decision process is not transparent. This lack of interpretability can be a problem in scenarios where understanding the decision-making process is important.


Ensemble learning is a powerful machine learning technique that combines the predictions of multiple models in order to improve the prediction performance. It offers numerous benefits, including improved prediction accuracy, reduced variance, and the ability to handle high dimensionality. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges, including increased complexity and reduced interpretability.

Despite these challenges, ensemble learning is widely used in a variety of machine learning problems, and it is an important tool in the toolbox of any machine learning practitioner. As with any machine learning technique, it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of ensemble learning, and to use it appropriately depending on the problem at hand.

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