The difference between Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

They are not the same – but are often used interchangeably


The short answer:

  • In practice: Machine Learning and AI are used interchangeably. Usually both terms are used to mean supervised learning.
  • In theory: Machine Learning is a subfield of AI: One way of implementing AI.

Machine Learning and AI: Different meanings to different people

A big part of the confusion is that – depending on who you talk to – Machine Learning and AI mean different things to different users.

In Media & Marketing: Everything is AI

AI is a more sexy term than Machine Learning right now, so in media & marketing, the term Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used most often. But the range of things the media refers to as AI is very wide:

  • Expert Systems
  • Process Automation
  • Machine Learning
  • Deep Learning
  • Reinforcement Learning
  • … and more

Interesting side note: The hotter the AI topic in the media, the less it tends to actually be used in businesses.

The hottest topics in the media are often the least valuable to businesses. These are generally still research cases and are rarely used in day-to-day applications.

Types of AI Hype vs. Value

In Academia: ML is a subfield AI

To academics and people who have studied data science, Machine Learning is a subfield of the much larger field of AI.

Artificial Intelligence refers to a very large field of research that encompasses a number of techniques aimed at developing computers that can learn and solve problems:

  • Computer Vision
  • Supervised and Unsupervised Learning
  • Reinforcement Learning and Genetic Algorithms
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Robotics (Motion)

Machine Learning is the field of Artificial Intelligence concerned with learning from data on its own.

Machine Learning part of Artificial Intelligence

In Business: ML ≈ AI

In business, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning usually refer to the same thing. Why? Because most business applications of AI amount to Supervised Learning, which is a subfield of Machine Learning.

“99% of the economic value created by AI today is through one type of AI, which is learning A to B or input to output mappings.” Andrew Ng

So in practical terms, AI in business is mostly the same thing as Machine Learning in business.

So … it depends on who you ask

  • Machine Learning is a subfield of Artificial Intelligence.
  • However, in practice, people who use these two terms often mean the same thing.

Especially in business contexts, you can use both terms to refer to machines that learn from data on their own.

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