The Distinction Between Machine Learning and AI

The Distinction Between Machine Learning and AI

If you’re a follower of tech blogs like this one then you have seen the terms “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence” thrown around a lot lately.  The two are used synonymously but there are real differences between them despite experts not really agreeing about what those differences are.  So let’s look at the two and see what the distinction is.

AI versus Machine Learning

There are a lot of ways to define AI  but for arguments sake the following definition will work “the field of computer science dedicated to solving cognitive problems commonly associated with human intelligence, such as learning, problem solving, and pattern recognition”.  The idea is that machines can be programmed to think the way people do and have intelligence.

The term “machine learning” isn’t new, it has been around since the 50’s and it is defined as the “ability to learn without being explicitly programmed”.  Machine learning was first used in a checkers program  that could recognize mistake and improve for the next game.  Both terms were largely used in science fiction until now where both have become part of the tech industry.

How They Are Used

There are a couple of applications that you already use that make use of machine learning or AI.  The first is in advertising.  After recognizing patterns of the things you search for or spend time looking at Amazon will feed you ads of things that you might be likely to purchase based on that.  Facebook uses machine learning when it decides what to show you in your newsfeed and the same goes for Netflix when it recommends a movie or TV show to you.  All of these recommendations are prediction based on your pattern of behavior.  It can be more than a little spooky with how accurate they can be.

The Future

We have only really scratched the surface as far as what is possible.  Big corporations like Google are pouring huge amounts of money into research.  Right now we have neural nets providing deep learning, there are algorithms running in multiple layers with GPUs processing a ton of data at the same time.  These neural nets mimic the way the human brain process information.

Whether you refer to it as machine learning or artificial intelligence the potential for it to change our world is incredible.  As the technology continues to evolve it won’t be any less confusing for us to understand.