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Raj Dasgupta
Raj Dasgupta

Professor @ OPIT, AI/ML Research Scientist @ USNRL, former Professor @ University of Nebraska. Location: USA. Teaches Data Structures and Algorithms, AI courses (BSc).

Reinforcement Learning: AI Algorithms, Types & Examples
Raj Dasgupta
Raj Dasgupta
July 02, 2023 · min read

Reinforcement learning is a very useful (and currently popular) subtype of machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is based on the principle that agents, when placed in an interactive environment, can learn from their actions via rewards associated with the actions, and improve the time to achieve their goal.

In this article, we’ll explore the fundamental concepts of reinforcement learning and discuss its key components, types, and applications.

Definition of Reinforcement Learning

We can define reinforcement learning as a machine learning technique involving an agent who needs to decide which actions it needs to do to perform a task that has been assigned to it most effectively. For this, rewards are assigned to the different actions that the agent can take at different situations or states of the environment. Initially, the agent has no idea about the best or correct actions. Using reinforcement learning, it explores its action choices via trial and error and figures out the best set of actions for completing its assigned task.

The basic idea behind a reinforcement learning agent is to learn from experience. Just like humans learn lessons from their past successes and mistakes, reinforcement learning agents do the same – when they do something “good” they get a reward, but, if they do something “bad”, they get penalized. The reward reinforces the good actions while the penalty avoids the bad ones.

Reinforcement learning requires several key components:

  • Agent – This is the “who” or the subject of the process, which performs different actions to perform a task that has been assigned to it.
  • Environment – This is the “where” or a situation in which the agent is placed.
  • Actions – This is the “what” or the steps an agent needs to take to reach the goal.
  • Rewards – This is the feedback an agent receives after performing an action.

Before we dig deep into the technicalities, let’s warm up with a real-life example. Reinforcement isn’t new, and we’ve used it for different purposes for centuries. One of the most basic examples is dog training.

Let’s say you’re in a park, trying to teach your dog to fetch a ball. In this case, the dog is the agent, and the park is the environment. Once you throw the ball, the dog will run to catch it, and that’s the action part. When he brings the ball back to you and releases it, he’ll get a reward (a treat). Since he got a reward, the dog will understand that his actions were appropriate and will repeat them in the future. If the dog doesn’t bring the ball back, he may get some “punishment” – you may ignore him or say “No!” After a few attempts (or more than a few, depending on how stubborn your dog is), the dog will fetch the ball with ease.

We can say that the reinforcement learning process has three steps:

  1. Interaction
  2. Learning
  3. Decision-making

Types of Reinforcement Learning

There are two types of reinforcement learning: model-based and model-free.

Model-Based Reinforcement Learning

With model-based reinforcement learning (RL), there’s a model that an agent uses to create additional experiences. Think of this model as a mental image that the agent can analyze to assess whether particular strategies could work.

Some of the advantages of this RL type are:

  • It doesn’t need a lot of samples.
  • It can save time.
  • It offers a safe environment for testing and exploration.

The potential drawbacks are:

  • Its performance relies on the model. If the model isn’t good, the performance won’t be good either.
  • It’s quite complex.

Model-Free Reinforcement Learning

In this case, an agent doesn’t rely on a model. Instead, the basis for its actions lies in direct interactions with the environment. An agent tries different scenarios and tests whether they’re successful. If yes, the agent will keep repeating them. If not, it will try another scenario until it finds the right one.

What are the advantages of model-free reinforcement learning?

  • It doesn’t depend on a model’s accuracy.
  • It’s not as computationally complex as model-based RL.
  • It’s often better for real-life situations.

Some of the drawbacks are:

  • It requires more exploration, so it can be more time-consuming.
  • It can be dangerous because it relies on real-life interactions.

Model-Based vs. Model-Free Reinforcement Learning: Example

Understanding model-based and model-free RL can be challenging because they often seem too complex and abstract. We’ll try to make the concepts easier to understand through a real-life example.

Let’s say you have two soccer teams that have never played each other before. Therefore, neither of the teams knows what to expect. At the beginning of the match, Team A tries different strategies to see whether they can score a goal. When they find a strategy that works, they’ll keep using it to score more goals. This is model-free reinforcement learning.

On the other hand, Team B came prepared. They spent hours investigating strategies and examining the opponent. The players came up with tactics based on their interpretation of how Team A will play. This is model-based reinforcement learning.

Who will be more successful? There’s no way to tell. Team B may be more successful in the beginning because they have previous knowledge. But Team A can catch up quickly, especially if they use the right tactics from the start.

Reinforcement Learning Algorithms

A reinforcement learning algorithm specifies how an agent learns suitable actions from the rewards. RL algorithms are divided into two categories: value-based and policy gradient-based.

Value-Based Algorithms

Value-based algorithms learn the value at each state of the environment, where the value of a state is given by the expected rewards to complete the task while starting from that state.


This model-free, off-policy RL algorithm focuses on providing guidelines to the agent on what actions to take and under what circumstances to win the reward. The algorithm uses Q-tables in which it calculates the potential rewards for different state-action pairs in the environment. The table contains Q-values that get updated after each action during the agent’s training. During execution, the agent goes back to this table to see which actions have the best value.

Deep Q-Networks (DQN)

Deep Q-networks, or deep q-learning, operate similarly to q-learning. The main difference is that the algorithm in this case is based on neural networks.


The acronym stands for state-action-reward-state-action. SARSA is an on-policy RL algorithm that uses the current action from the current policy to learn the value.

Policy-Based Algorithms

These algorithms directly update the policy to maximize the reward. There are different policy gradient-based algorithms: REINFORCE, proximal policy optimization, trust region policy optimization, actor-critic algorithms, advantage actor-critic, deep deterministic policy gradient (DDPG), and twin-delayed DDPG.

Examples of Reinforcement Learning Applications

The advantages of reinforcement learning have been recognized in many spheres. Here are several concrete applications of RL.

Robotics and Automation

With RL, robotic arms can be trained to perform human-like tasks. Robotic arms can give you a hand in warehouse management, packaging, quality testing, defect inspection, and many other aspects.

Another notable role of RL lies in automation, and self-driving cars are an excellent example. They’re introduced to different situations through which they learn how to behave in specific circumstances and offer better performance.

Gaming and Entertainment

Gaming and entertainment industries certainly benefit from RL in many ways. From AlphaGo (the first program that has beaten a human in the board game Go) to video games AI, RL offers limitless possibilities.

Finance and Trading

RL can optimize and improve trading strategies, help with portfolio management, minimize risks that come with running a business, and maximize profit.

Healthcare and Medicine

RL can help healthcare workers customize the best treatment plan for their patients, focusing on personalization. It can also play a major role in drug discovery and testing, allowing the entire sector to get one step closer to curing patients quickly and efficiently.

Basics for Implementing Reinforcement Learning

The success of reinforcement learning in a specific area depends on many factors.

First, you need to analyze a specific situation and see which RL algorithm suits it. Your job doesn’t end there; now you need to define the environment and the agent and figure out the right reward system. Without them, RL doesn’t exist. Next, allow the agent to put its detective cap on and explore new features, but ensure it uses the existing knowledge adequately (strike the right balance between exploration and exploitation). Since RL changes rapidly, you want to keep your model updated. Examine it every now and then to see what you can tweak to keep your model in top shape.

Explore the World of Possibilities With Reinforcement Learning

Reinforcement learning goes hand-in-hand with the development and modernization of many industries. We’ve been witnesses to the incredible things RL can achieve when used correctly, and the future looks even better. Hop in on the RL train and immerse yourself in this fascinating world.

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Understanding Algorithm: The Design, Analysis, and Impact
Raj Dasgupta
Raj Dasgupta
July 02, 2023 · min read

Algorithms are the backbone behind technology that have helped establish some of the world’s most famous companies. Software giants like Google, beverage giants Coca Cola and many other organizations utilize proprietary algorithms to improve their services and enhance customer experience. Algorithms are an inseparable part of the technology behind organization as they help improve security, product or service recommendations, and increase sales.

Knowing the benefits of algorithms is useful, but you might also be interested to know what makes them so advantageous. As such, you’re probably asking: “What is an algorithm?” Here’s the most common algorithm definition: an algorithm is a set of procedures and rules a computer follows to solve a problem.

In addition to the meaning of the word “algorithm,” this article will also cover the key types and characteristics of algorithms, as well as their applications.

Types of Algorithms and Design Techniques

One of the main reasons people rely on algorithms is that they offer a principled and structured means to represent a problem on a computer.

Recursive Algorithms

Recursive algorithms are critical for solving many problems. The core idea behind recursive algorithms is to use functions that call themselves on smaller chunks of the problem.

Divide and Conquer Algorithms

Divide and conquer algorithms are similar to recursive algorithms. They divide a large problem into smaller units. Algorithms solve each smaller component before combining them to tackle the original, large problem.

Greedy Algorithms

A greedy algorithm looks for solutions based on benefits. More specifically, it resolves problems in sections by determining how many benefits it can extract by analyzing a certain section. The more benefits it has, the more likely it is to solve a problem, hence the term greedy.

Dynamic Programming Algorithms

Dynamic programming algorithms follow a similar approach to recursive and divide and conquer algorithms. First, they break down a complex problem into smaller pieces. Next, it solves each smaller piece once and saves the solution for later use instead of computing it.

Backtracking Algorithms

After dividing a problem, an algorithm may have trouble moving forward to find a solution. If that’s the case, a backtracking algorithm can return to parts of the problem it has already solved until it determines a way forward that can overcome the setback.

Brute Force Algorithms

Brute force algorithms try every possible solution until they determine the best one. Brute force algorithms are simpler, but the solution they find might not be as good or elegant as those found by the other types of algorithms.

Algorithm Analysis and Optimization

Digital transformation remains one of the biggest challenges for businesses in 2023. Algorithms can facilitate the transition through careful analysis and optimization.

Time Complexity

The time complexity of an algorithm refers to how long you need to execute a certain algorithm. A number of factors determine time complexity, but the algorithm’s input length is the most important consideration.

Space Complexity

Before you can run an algorithm, you need to make sure your device has enough memory. The amount of memory required for executing an algorithm is known as space complexity.


Solving a problem with an algorithm in C or any other programming language is about making compromises. In other words, the system often makes trade-offs between the time and space available.

For example, an algorithm can use less space, but this extends the time it takes to solve a problem. Alternatively, it can take up a lot of space to address an issue faster.

Optimization Techniques

Algorithms generally work great out of the box, but they sometimes fail to deliver the desired results. In these cases, you can implement a slew of optimization techniques to make them more effective.


You generally use memorization if you wish to elevate the efficacy of a recursive algorithm. The technique rewrites algorithms and stores them in arrays. The main reason memorization is so powerful is that it eliminates the need to calculate results multiple times.


As the name suggests, parallelization is the ability of algorithms to perform operations simultaneously. This accelerates task completion and is normally utilized when you have a lot of memory on your device.


Heuristic algorithms (a.k.a. heuristics) are algorithms used to speed up problem-solving. They generally target non-deterministic polynomial-time (NP) problems.

Approximation Algorithms

Another way to solve a problem if you’re short on time is to incorporate an approximation algorithm. Rather than provide a 100% optimal solution and risk taking longer, you use this algorithm to get approximate solutions. From there, you can calculate how far away they are from the optimal solution.


Algorithms sometimes analyze unnecessary data, slowing down your task completion. A great way to expedite the process is to utilize pruning. This compression method removes unwanted information by shrinking algorithm decision trees.

Algorithm Applications and Challenges

Thanks to this introduction to algorithm, you’ll no longer wonder: “What is an algorithm, and what are the different types?” Now it’s time to go through the most significant applications and challenges of algorithms.

Sorting Algorithms

Sorting algorithms arrange elements in a series to help solve complex issues faster. There are different types of sorting, including linear, insertion, and bubble sorting. They’re generally used for exploring databases and virtual search spaces.

Searching Algorithms

An algorithm in C or other programming languages can be used as a searching algorithm. They allow you to identify a small item in a large group of related elements.

Graph Algorithms

Graph algorithms are just as practical, if not more practical, than other types. Graphs consist of nodes and edges, where each edge connects two nodes.

There are numerous real-life applications of graph algorithms. For instance, you might have wondered how engineers solve problems regarding wireless networks or city traffic. The answer lies in using graph algorithms.

The same goes for social media sites, such as Facebook. Algorithms on such platforms contain nodes, which represent key information, like names and genders and edges that represent the relationships or dependencies between them.

Cryptography Algorithms

When creating an account on some websites, the platform can generate a random password for you. It’s usually stronger than custom-made codes, thanks to cryptography algorithms. They can scramble digital text and turn it into an unreadable string. Many organizations use this method to protect their data and prevent unauthorized access.

Machine Learning Algorithms

Over 70% of enterprises prioritize machine learning applications. To implement their ideas, they rely on machine learning algorithms. They’re particularly useful for financial institutions because they can predict future trends.

Famous Algorithm Challenges

Many organizations struggle to adopt algorithms, be it an algorithm in data structure or computer science. The reason being, algorithms present several challenges:

  • Opacity – You can’t take a closer look at the inside of an algorithm. Only the end result is visible, which is why it’s difficult to understand an algorithm.
  • Heterogeneity – Most algorithms are heterogeneous, behaving differently from one another. This makes them even more complex.
  • Dependency – Each algorithm comes with the abovementioned time and space restrictions.

Algorithm Ethics, Fairness, and Social Impact

When discussing critical characteristics of algorithms, it’s important to highlight the main concerns surrounding this technology.

Bias in Algorithms

Algorithms aren’t intrinsically biased unless the developer injects their personal biases into the design. If so, getting impartial results from an algorithm is highly unlikely.

Transparency and Explainability

Knowing only the consequences of algorithms prevents us from explaining them in detail. A transparent algorithm enables a user to view and understand its different operations. In contrast, explainability of an algorithm relates to its ability to provide reasons for the decisions it makes.

Privacy and Security

Some algorithms require end users to share private information. If cyber criminals hack the system, they can easily steal the data.

Algorithm Accessibility and Inclusivity

Limited explainability hinders access to algorithms. Likewise, it’s hard to include different viewpoints and characteristics in an algorithm, especially if it is biased.

Algorithm Trust and Confidence

No algorithm is omnipotent. Claiming otherwise makes it untrustworthy – the best way to prevent this is for the algorithm to state its limitations.

Algorithm Social Impact

Algorithms impact almost every area of life including politics, economic and healthcare decisions, marketing, transportation, social media and Internet, and society and culture in general.

Algorithm Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Contrary to popular belief, algorithms aren’t very sustainable. The extraction of materials to make computers that power algorithms is a major polluter.

Future of Algorithms

Algorithms are already advanced, but what does the future hold for this technology? Here are a few potential applications and types of future algorithms:

  • Quantum Algorithms – Quantum algorithms are expected to run on quantum computers to achieve unprecedented speeds and efficiency.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – AI and machine learning algorithms can help a computer develop human-like cognitive qualities via learning from its environment and experiences.
  • Algorithmic Fairness and Ethics – Considering the aforementioned challenges of algorithms, developers are expected to improve the technology. It may become more ethical with fewer privacy violations and accessibility issues.

Smart, Ethical Implementation Is the Difference-Maker

Understanding algorithms is crucial if you want to implement them correctly and ethically. They’re powerful, but can also have unpleasant consequences if you’re not careful during the development stage. Responsible use is paramount because it can improve many areas, including healthcare, economics, social media, and communication.

If you wish to learn more about algorithms, accredited courses might be your best option. AI and machine learning-based modules cover some of the most widely-used algorithms to help expand your knowledge about this topic.

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Advantages & Disadvantages of AI: Weighing Pros & Cons
Raj Dasgupta
Raj Dasgupta
May 31, 2023 · min read

Artificial intelligence has impacted on businesses since its development in the 1940s. By automating various tasks, it increases security, streamlines inventory management, and provides many other tremendous benefits. Additionally, it’s expected to grow at a rate of nearly 40% until the end of the decade.

However, the influence of artificial intelligence goes both ways. There are certain disadvantages to consider to get a complete picture of this technology.

This article will cover the most important advantages and disadvantages of artificial intelligence.


Advantages of AI

Approximately 37% of all organizations embrace some form of AI to polish their operations. The numerous advantages help business owners take their enterprises to a whole new level.

Increased Efficiency and Productivity

One of the most significant advantages of artificial intelligence is elevated productivity and efficiency.

Automation of Repetitive Tasks

How many times have you thought to yourself: “I really wish there was a better way to take care of this mundane task.” There is – incorporate artificial intelligence into your toolbox.

You can program this technology to perform basically anything. Whether you need to go through piles of documents or adjust print settings, a machine can do the work for you. Just set the parameters, and you can sit back while AI does the rest.

Faster Data Processing and Analysis

You probably deal with huge amounts of information. Manual processing and analysis can be time-consuming, but not if you outsource the project to AI. Artificial intelligence can breeze through vast chunks of data much faster than people.

Improved Decision-Making

AI makes all the difference with decision-making through data-driven insights and the reduction of human error.


Data-Driven Insights

AI software gathers and analyzes data from relevant sources. Decision-makers can use this highly accurate information to make an informed decision and predict future trends.

Reduction of Human Error

Burnout can get the better of anyone and increase the chances of making a mistake. That’s not what happens with AI. If correctly programmed, it can carry out virtually any task, and the chances of error are slim to none.

Enhanced Customer Experience

Artificial intelligence can also boost customer experience.

Personalized Recommendations

AI machines can use data to recommend products and services. The technology reduces the need for manual input to further automate repetitive tasks. One of the most famous platforms with AI-based recommendations is Netflix.

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

Many enterprises set up AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants to communicate with customers and help them troubleshoot various issues. Likewise, these platforms can help clients find a certain page or blog on a website.

Innovation and Creativity

Contrary to popular belief, one of the biggest advantages of artificial intelligence is that it can promote innovation and creativity.

AI-Generated Content and Designs

AI can create some of the most mesmerizing designs imaginable. Capable of producing stunning content, whether in the written, video, or audio format, it also works at unprecedented speeds.

Problem-Solving Capabilities

Sophisticated AI tools can solve a myriad of problems, including math, coding, and architecture. Simply describe your problem and wait for the platform to apply its next-level skills.

Cost Savings

According to McKinsey & Company, you can decrease costs by 15%-20% in less than two years by implementing AI in your workplace. Two main factors underpin this reduction.

Reduced Labor Costs

Before AI became widespread, many tasks could only be performed by humans, such as contact management and inventory tracking. Nowadays, artificial intelligence can take on those responsibilities and cut labor costs.

Lower Operational Expenses

As your enterprise becomes more efficient through AI implementation, you reduce errors and lower operational expenses.

Disadvantages of AI

AI does have a few drawbacks. Understanding the disadvantages of artificial intelligence is key to making the right decision on the adoption of this technology.

Job Displacement and Unemployment

The most obvious disadvantage is redundancies. Many people lose their jobs because their position becomes obsolete. Organizations prioritize cost cutting, which is why they often lay off employees in favor of AI.

Automation Replacing Human Labor

This point is directly related to the previous one. Even though AI-based automation is beneficial from a time and money-saving perspective, it’s a major problem for employees. Those who perform repetitive tasks are at risk of losing their position.

Need for Workforce Reskilling

Like any other workplace technology, artificial intelligence requires people to learn additional skills. Since some abilities may become irrelevant due to AI-powered automation, job seekers need to pick up more practical skills that can’t be replaced by AI.

Ethical Concerns

In addition to increasing unemployment, artificial intelligence can also raise several ethical concerns.

Bias and Discrimination in AI Algorithms

AI algorithms are sophisticated, but they’re not perfect. The main reason being that developers inject their personal biases into the AI-based tool. Consequently, content and designs created through AI may contain subjective themes that might not resonate with some audiences.

Privacy and Surveillance Issues

One of the most serious disadvantages of artificial intelligence is that it can infringe on people’s privacy. Some platforms gather information about individuals without their consent. Even though it may achieve a greater purpose, many people aren’t willing to sacrifice their right to privacy.

High Initial Investment and Maintenance Costs

As cutting-edge technology, Artificial Intelligence is also pricey.

Expensive AI Systems and Infrastructure

The cost of developing a custom AI solution can be upwards of $200,000. Hence, it can be a financial burden.

Ongoing Updates and Improvements

Besides the initial investment, you also need to release regular updates and improvements to streamline the AI platform. All of which quickly adds up.

Dependence on Technology

While reliance on technology has its benefits, there are a few disadvantages.

Loss of Human Touch and Empathy

Although advanced, most AI tools fail to capture the magic of the human touch. They can’t empathize with the target audience, either, making the content less impactful.

Overreliance on AI Systems

If you become overly reliant on an AI solution, your problem-solving skills suffer and you might not know how to complete a project if the system fails.

Security Risks

AI tools aren’t impervious to security risks. Far from it – many risks arise when utilizing this technology.

Vulnerability to Cyberattacks

Hackers can tap into the AI network by adding training files the tool considers safe. Before you know it, the malware spreads and wreaks havoc on the infrastructure.

Misuse of AI Technology

Malicious users often have dishonorable intentions with AI software. They can use it to create deep fakes or execute phishing attacks to steal information.

AI in Various Industries: Pros and Cons

Let’s go through the pros and cons of using AI in different industries.



  • Improved Diagnostics – AI can drastically speed up the diagnostics process.
  • Personalized Treatment – Artificial intelligence can provide personalized treatment recommendations.
  • Drug Development – AI algorithms can scan troves of information to help develop drugs.


  • Privacy Concerns – Systems can collect patient and doctor data without their permission.
  • High Costs – Implementing an AI system might be too expensive for many hospitals.
  • Potential Misdiagnosis – An AI machine may overlook certain aspects during diagnosis.



  • Fraud Detection – AI-powered data collection and analysis is perfect for preventing financial fraud.
  • Risk Assessment – Automated reports and monitoring expedite and optimize risk assessment.
  • Algorithmic Trading – A computer can capitalize on specific market conditions automatically to increase profits.


  • Job Displacement – Risk assessment professionals and other specialists could become obsolete due to AI.
  • Ethical Concerns – Artificial intelligence may use questionable data collection practices.
  • Security Risks – A cybercriminal can compromise an AI system of a bank, allowing them to steal customer data.



  • Increased Efficiency – You can set product dimensions, weight, and other parameters automatically with AI.
  • Reduced Waste – Artificial intelligence is more accurate than humans, reducing waste in manufacturing facilities.
  • Improved Safety – Lower manual input leads to fewer workplace accidents.


  • Job Displacement – AI implementation results in job loss in most fields. Manufacturing is no exception.
  • High Initial Investment – Production companies typically need $200K+ to develop a tailor-made AI system.
  • Dependence on Technology – AI manufacturing programs may require tweaks after some time, which is hard to do if you become overly reliant on the software.



  • Personalized Learning – An AI program can recommend appropriate textbooks, courses, and other resources.
  • Adaptive Assessments – AI-operated systems adapt to the learner’s needs for greater retention.
  • Virtual Tutors – Schools can reduce labor costs with virtual tutors.


  • Privacy Concerns – Data may be at risk in an AI classroom.
  • Digital Divide – Some nations don’t have the same access to technology as others, leading to so-called digital divide.
  • Loss of Human Interaction – Teachers empathize and interact with their learners on a profound level, which can’t be said for AI.

AI Is Mighty But Warrants Caution


People rely on AI for higher efficiency, productivity, innovation, and automation. At the same time, it’s expensive, raises unemployment, and causes many privacy concerns.

That’s why you should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of artificial intelligence. Striking a balance between the good and bad sides is vital for effective yet ethical implementation.

If you wish to learn more about AI and its uses across industries, consider taking a course by renowned tech experts.

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