By now, many people think they know what machine learning is: You “feed” computers a bunch of “training data” so that they “learn” to do things without our having to specify exactly how. But computers aren’t dogs, data isn’t kibble, and that previous sentence has way too many air quotes. What does that stuff really mean?

Machine learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence, which explores how to computationally simulate (or surpass) humanlike intelligence. While some AI techniques (such as expert systems) use other approaches, machine learning drives most of the field’s current progress by focusing on one thing: using algorithms to automatically improve the performance of other algorithms.

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