What We Mean When We Say “Machine Learning”

Our current world is shaped by machines that help us perform certain actions in a more efficient way. We’ve become so used to them that we probably can’t imagine our life without them. They are meant to help us and compliment our work, but some people are intimidated by the increasing impact that they have. How is it possible that 30 years ago we didn’t even have Internet and now we’re testing autonomous vehicles? So in this article we will address a new emerging theme: machine learning and try to answer the question “who learns faster, a machine or an human?”

What we mean when we say “learning”

“Learning” is defined as changing the system´s state to produce an output based on objective functional goals. Basically it is about having a problem, goal or objective, and being able to apply a different behavior than before, in order to achieve it. So in order to achieve our goal, we have to be able to understand success and the factors that influence it.

People can get stuck in the process of learning. They’ll often try the same action over and over, hoping to get different results. Sometimes, however, we meet people with both the willingness and motivation (and that is a key word here) to change and test different actions.

How does a machine learn?

The way machines learn is a buzzword in the current innovation and technology industry. Companies have shared numerous videos and messages surrounding “Machine Learning and Deep Learning.” All of them show us that the methodology that machines use to “learn” is similar to human neurons. But are they actually learning?

Many experts have stated that machine and robots do NOT learn, besides, they simply replicate a task and optimize their performance of that feat. Given a specific task and past experience, a machine can work on it through a complex algorithm and improve on its past performance. But they cannot necessarily “create”

When you learn, you add new tools that you can use and combine in ways different than you did before. And you do that because you have the motivation to do so.

Even though artificial intelligence is able to improve a given task/activity, it will never be able to create the motivation to do it by itself.  It is a human behind the machine that offers it its motivation.

“Computers can outperform humans on certain specialized tasks, such as playing [the game] go or chess, but no computer program today can match human general intelligence,” says Murray Shanahan, Professor of Cognitive Robotics for the Department of Computing at Imperial College in London. “Humans learn to achieve many different types of goals in a huge variety of environments. We don’t yet know how to endow computers with the kind of common sense understanding of the everyday world that underpins human general intelligence, although I’m sure we will succeed in doing this one day.” – TIME

Machine Learning



As we can see in the picture, all those machine learning beahviors that drive the machine to improve are human-directed. There is no room for “self-motivation” and creation on the machine’s part. They just follow a path and methodologies and perform tasks millions of times faster than humans.

How does a human learn?

Remember when you were young and you were riding your bike all across your neighbourhood? Your parents would be always by your side paying attention to you just in case you were about to fall down. But only after falling down ten times, crying and trying over and over again, did you come to learn yourself without external motivation. Humans learn by mistakes, but machines learn by theory.

Yes, we can read millions and millions of books about how to – insert activity here -, but we will never be able to perform it 100% accurate until we put ourselves in a position of failure. Some people take 1 day to ride that bike perfectly on two wheels, other group may do it in 1 year! But we have to put it into practise in order to achieve and master it.

Redefining learning for a human is very important as well. For a machine, it will only work on it if you give it a task, experience and a goal. Human being have the capacity to learn without a goal. We can perform that task of learning, even if we do not have a clear goal. We do it by the sense of learning/improving and getting better in general. There is a motivation and creativity process on it.

Who learns faster?

Artificial Intelligence has the capacity to store millions of types of data in its system and ccess it even faster and more accurately than a human. However, we do not judge who is the fastest or more able to store data when we gauging someone’s ability to learn.  We ascribe intelligence to someone who is capable of listening, paying attention, analzying data, driving conclusions and the motivation to learn more.


 David Ayza EneroThis is a guest post authored by David Enero. David Ayza Enero is Marketing Manager at Apiumhub, a software development company specialized in software architecture and web & app development. He has a passion for new technologies and extreme sports with the hobby of writing articles and knowledge sharing about new technologies, methodologies in the innovation sector and their diverse applications.

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