What is Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

by Akbar Jaffer
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machine learning and artificial intelligence

Imagine living in a world where the majority of menial, repetitive, boring or dangerous tasks are performed by smart machines that are capable of making predictions and decisions on their own. Everything from mining, agriculture, production of goods and services to medical research, call center dialer software and driving transport vehicles can be assigned to A.I. based machines that perform these jobs, and better than humans can in most cases.

Machine learning and A.I. are the underlying technologies that make it all possible. These fields of scientific research are developing at a phenomenal rate right now. We may see human like robots in shopping malls and computers capable of making decision similar to humans in our offices well within the next ten years.


Artificial-Intelligence and Machine LearningUnderstanding Machine Learning

Machine Learning involves the ability of computers to learn from their environment and experience without human intervention or programming. They do this by collecting data, making sense of patterns and finding the right answer to complex situations based on previously observed trends. ML works by applying complex mathematical calculations to a set of data over and over until it finds the right solution. Once the solution is found, the computer saves it to help improve future decision making.

These special machines are assigned a specific task like “drive a car” or “clean house” and they perform these tasks while progressively improving their performance on that specific task. These machines are not explicitly programmed to do that task however they are given a set of sample data and a few principles. These machines then use computer systems to develop mathematical models based on those sample data points to make predictions or decisions and continue to improve on their operations.

ML is being used by businesses in a number of ways. It is used to filter spam and malware, automatically complete terms in search engines, used by traffic control to make predictions about the flow of vehicles and also used by retailers in their supply chain management.


Artificial-Intelligence and Machine LearningUnderstanding Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is much broader in scope compared to ML. It involves the study of how computers perceive the world around them, formulate plans and take decisions to achieve given objectives. It encompasses mathematics, probability, logic, neuroscience and linguistics.  A machine that performance human tasks better than humans, at the core, can be achieved by simply teaching the machines how to handle different scenarios and conditions. Perhaps the various “how to” is collected from several master subject matter experts who lend their expertise in order to build this machine.  However, what is causing concern among most elite academics  and people who fear the “rise of the machines” is that A.I combined with Machine Learning reaches near-human performance and in the wrong hands could mean disaster for the humankind.

The developments in A.I. are used in industries like manufacturing, medical diagnosis, transportation, agriculture, smart appliance and various service sectors. Researchers believe that while it may not be possible to achieve human-like decision making in the near future, A.I. can be perfected to a level where it can take simple decisions on its own.

This will happen in the shape of automation. Robotic process automation can be used to help computers capture and interpret information, process data, communicate with other systems and take actions.

Automation will not give a computer true intelligence or the ability to take actions in all circumstances. However, it will let machines take the best decision for a very limited activity. For example, in an assembly line, a machine will be capable of analyzing a sample of product quickly and take the decision to pass it or fail the product.

Another manifestation of AI is through bots that are capable of performing specific tasks. For example, developers have built chatbots that are capable of carrying on a text conversation with humans for hours without letting them realize that they are talking to a robot. Developers have also built malicious bots called malware that are capable of infecting their host computer and compromising system security.

Some of the most popular AI applications we see around us every day include, the Google search, Image recognition software, Siri, Alexa and other personal assistants, Self-driving cars, and IBM’s Watson.

The AI and ML technologies are at an important stage of development.  We are just getting started. This is an exciting time to be involved in this field as we will see a lot of progress in the industry in the coming years.


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