Technology & AI

Explainer: What Is Machine Learning?

Computers are getting smarter. But what does it mean to say they’re learning?

May 18, 2023

| by Kelsey Doyle

What exactly is machine learning, and how is it related to artificial intelligence? This video explains this increasingly important concept and how you’ve already seen it in action.

Traditional programming tells computers what to do and they do it, but when a computer finds patterns or correlations in data and figures out an unexpected solution on its own, that’s what’s called machine learning. We experience machine learning all the time these days. Netflix, Spotify, and other streaming services use our prior searches, views, and listens to predict what we want to see and hear. Spam filters learn which emails to label as spam. Banks use machine learning to identify fraudulent transactions.

These programs are using accumulated data and algorithms to become more and more accurate as time goes on. The machines are learning, so to speak. And machine learning isn’t just affecting the online aspects of our lives. It aids farmers in deciding what to plant and when to harvest, and it helps autonomous vehicles improve the more they drive. Now, many people confuse machine learning with artificial intelligence, or AI. They are related, but they’re not the same. Machine learning, extracting new knowledge from data, can help a computer achieve artificial intelligence. As we head toward a future where computers can do ever more complex tasks on their own, machine learning will be part of what gets us there.

In this ongoing video series, we define and break down key concepts in under two minutes.

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