What’s the difference between Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

In our Exploring Artificial Intelligence Retreat we use the word ‘artificial intelligence’ or ‘AI’ because AI is closer to what most people think of when they think of a human-created technology that begins to take on human-like qualities, such as autonomy.


Machine Learning

Most people working in this field use the term ‘machine learning.’ Many of our devices do this now. They use algorithms, or programmed rules, to predict what is most relevant to what we really want when, for example, we ask Siri for a nearby Mexican restaurant. Machine learning can adapt to esoteric behavior, and learn, and respond helpfully in increasingly varied situations.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is different.  It evokes something more familiar than abstract algorithms. Part of the reason is that it has been part of our popular lexicon for a while. Our ideas about it have been shaped by robots and droids in science fiction literature and film.

AI evokes a sense of personality, freedom, and even creativity. It is what we think of when think of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or R2-D2 and C-3PO in Star Wars. Each becomes a character with a recognizable style of being in the world, just like a person. So AI is a form of machine learning that begins to take on a more human appearance.

If HAL9000 was Amazon.com's Alexa

If A Space Odyssey's "HAL9000" was Alexa.

The Turing Test

This sense of AI was solidified by the British mathematician Alan Turing, whose 1950 essay “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” explored what it would mean to say that a machine is intelligent.

Turing’s conclusion in this essay is that a machine could be considered intelligent if it is able to hold a conversation with a human, and trick that person into thinking it (the machine) is also a human.

The Most Human Human

It is perhaps more accurate to call the Turing Test a test of the human making the decision rather than the machine! Brian Christian explores this situation in the 2011 book, The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us about Being Alive. Christian participates in an annual Turing Test competition that judges which AI computers come across as the most human.

In this case the test is run with an online judge and two candidates: one human and one machine. The judges have to decide between the two which one they think is the machine.

How the "Most Human Human" passed the Turing Test

How the "Most Human Human" passed the Turing Test.

AI Turns the Tables On Us

When Brian Christian signed up to be the human squaring off against the machine Christian began to think about what it means to be a human, how we interact with others, and how we interact with machines. These are some of the questions we begin with in our Exploring Artificial Intelligence Retreat. Our focus is not so much on the technological solutions, but on how humans will respond to artificial intelligence.


Exploring Artificial Intelligence Retreat

We think AI is an opportunity to reflect more deeply upon what it means to be human and what types of interactions humans have. We see AI as an opportunity, and perhaps another stage in the development of human consciousness.


Phenomenology: The Philosophical Approach

The approach we will take in this retreat is philosophical, and specifically, phenomenological. Phenomenology is a method where we explore our own experiences and to investigate concepts like ‘intelligence,’ ‘machine learning,’ 'artificial,' or 'natural.'

When we encounter an artifact like a watch or a very old stone wall, do we recognize both as products of intelligence? What about an ant mound, or a beehive? We will discuss what it means for something to be considered ‘intelligent’ (does it have to be conscious?) and what are its limits (does my ability to look up something on the internet count as intelligence?).

Sign up for our Exploring Artificial Intelligence Retreat today, to explore some of the most interesting questions people are facing right now.