Is there a difference?

Two of the biggest trends in technology right now are machine learning and artificial intelligence. In fact, the two terms are used almost interchangeably. However, there are subtle but important differences between them both. In many ways, machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence. Also, the term AI is older than machine learning.

What’s the difference?

At its heart, artificial intelligence involves the attempt to make machines think in the way humans do. The famous Turing test says that a system can be said to be intelligent if a human judge cannot distinguish the system’s behaviour from that of a human. However, current technology is far off achieving this, so artificial intelligence at the moment simply means creating systems that are good at doing what humans are good at. It is a catch-all term. Machine learning also harks back to the middle of the twentieth century. Arthur Samuel defined machine learning as “the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed”.

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Uses and applications

The discipline of machine learning fell out of favour for decades (much like artificial intelligence) but with data mining taking off just before the end of the last century, there was a need for algorithms to look for patterns in each dataset. Machine learning does this but goes one step further and learns from the process, improving performance as it goes along.

Another thing machine learning has been used for is image recognition. These applications are initially trained by humans to look at images and then describe what they are. After thousands or millions of images are used in training, the machine learning system can then look at the pixels and work out if a picture is that of a dog, a house, flowers or a person  […]