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What is machine learning?

Machine Learning

Machine learning is the branch of artificial intelligence and computer science that uses data and algorithms to mimic the way human beings learn. The aim is for machines to ‘learn’ autonomously. It should be noted that machine learning is different from ‘deep learning’, another field of artificial intelligence.

The term machine learning was coined by Arthur Samuel, a computer scientist and artificial intelligence pioneer. Beginning his research in 1949, Samuel's Checkers Player was among the first self-learning programs. 

In essence, machine learning refers to systems that can learn by themselves. Instead of programming a computer with particular rules to follow, the computer is fed massive amounts of ‘training data’, which allows it to identify patterns. The quality and amount of this data helps determine the accuracy of machine learning algorithms. 

Machine learning applications

Machine learning examples

There are many ways in which machine learning is utilised by different industries. One typical example is how computers recognise speech. Speech recognition has developed over decades, but machine learning has revolutionised its progress. 

Thanks to machine learning, machines can now ‘hear’ users’ inflections and accents, better recognising spoken words and converting them into text. You might have used this feature for a voice search.

Machine learning is working for the medical field, allowing healthcare professionals to find out more about diseases and how they progress. Machine learning can help doctors to diagnose patients, predict future health problems and recommend more-effective treatments.

Machine learning explained

To define machine learning, we usually mean software systems that can rapidly parse massive amounts of data to find patterns, make predictions and replicate actions that people do in their day-to-day lives. Machine learning involves computers performing tasks that they weren’t specifically programmed to do. 

Machine-learning algorithms are critical to some of the most popular platforms, including Google, Youtube, Netflix and Spotify. These platforms collect as much data as possible about consumers and then use machine learning to recommend new content. It’s currently utilised in many industry sectors, from healthcare and finance, to entertainment, marketing and agriculture.

Ultimately, machine learning means using data to train computers to perform tasks that they wouldn’t normally be able to do through conventional algorithms.

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