A lot of people are using the terms Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning interchangeably or to mean different things. This adds confusion to the complexity of modern technology.
When Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo program defeated South Korean Master Lee Se-dol in the board game Go, the terms AI, machine learning, and deep learning were used in the media to describe how DeepMind won. And all three are part of the reason why AlphaGo trounced Lee Se-Dol. But they are not the same things.
The easiest way to think of their relationship is to visualize them as concentric circles with AI — the idea that came first — the largest, then machine learning — which blossomed later, and finally deep learning — which is driving today’s AI explosion — fitting inside both.
Over the past few years AI has exploded, and especially since 2015. Much of that has to do with the wide availability of computer chips that make parallel processing ever faster, cheaper, and more powerful. It also has to do with the simultaneous one-two punch of practically infinite storage and a flood of data of every stripe (that whole Big Data movement) – images, text, transactions, mapping data, you name it.
Machine Learning at its most basic is the practice of using algorithms to parse data, learn from it, and then make a determination or prediction about something in the world. So rather than hand-coding software routines with a specific set of instructions to accomplish a particular task, the machine is “trained” using large amounts of data and algorithms that give it the ability to learn how to perform the task.
Machine learning came directly from the minds of the early AI crowd, and the algorithmic approaches over the years included decision tree learning, inductive logic programming. clustering, reinforcement learning, and Bayesian networks among others. As we know, none achieved the ultimate goal of General AI, and even Narrow AI was mostly out of reach with early machine learning approaches.
As it turned out, one of the very best application areas for machine learning for many years was computer vision, though it still required a great deal of hand-coding to get the job done.
Another algorithmic approach from the early machine-learning crowd, Artificial Neural Networks, came and mostly went over the decades. Neural Networks are inspired by our understanding of the biology of our brains – all those interconnections between the neurons. But, unlike a biological brain where any neuron can connect to any other neuron within a certain physical distance, these artificial neural networks have discrete layers, connections, and directions of data propagation.
You might, for example, take an image, chop it up into a bunch of tiles that are inputted into the first layer of the neural network. In the first layer individual neurons, then passes the data to a second layer. The second layer of neurons does its task, and so on, until the final layer and the final output is produced.
Each neuron assigns a weighting to its input — how correct or incorrect it is relative to the task being performed. The final output is then determined by the total of those weightings.
Until recently neural networks were all but shunned by the AI research community. They had been around since the earliest days of AI, and had produced very little in the way of “intelligence.” The problem was that even the most basic neural networks were very computationally intensive, it just wasn’t a practical approach.
The breakthrough was to take these neural networks, and essentially make them huge, increase the layers and the neurons, and then run massive amounts of data through the system to train it.
Today, image recognition by machines trained via deep learning in some scenarios is better than humans, and that ranges from cats to identifying indicators for cancer in blood and tumors in MRI scans.
Google’s AlphaGo learned the game, and trained for its Go match — it tuned its neural network — by playing against itself over and over and over.
Deep Learning has enabled many practical applications of Machine Learning and by extension the overall field of AI. Deep Learning breaks down tasks in ways that makes all kinds of machine assists seem possible, even likely. Driverless cars, better preventive healthcare, even better movie recommendations, are all here today or on the horizon. AI is the present and the future.
This Blog is created and maintained by Iraklis Mardiris