AI versus machine learning: What’s the difference?

Artificial intelligence is everywhere – although often the reality feels somewhat underwhelming compared to the potential for what it might become. AI has the power to change the world, but it’s a gradual process.

Machine learning is often used as a synonym for artificial intelligence, but it’s actually a different, albeit related discipline. While artificial intelligence refers to a computer program able to “think” for itself without programmed instructions, machine learning is one process by which a computer can learn its trade.

The philosophy behind machine learning is similar to how you or I learn about something: by experiencing it. The difference is that for now at least, machines are specialised in learning about one or two things at a time.

Facebook’s head of AI research, Yann LeCun explains: “Artificial intelligence is not magic but it can make seemingly magical advances in scientific research and contribute to the everyday marvel of identifying objects in photos, recognising speech, driving a car, or translating an online post into dozens of languages.”

“All of this happens at blinding speed through a set of coded programs designed to run neural networks with millions of units and billions of connections. Intelligence emerges out of the interaction between this large number of simple elements.”

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