The term "machine learning" might not mean much to you. You might imagine a computer playing chess, calculating the multitude of moves and the possible countermoves. But, when you hear the term "artificial intelligence" or "AI," however, it's more likely you have visions of Skynet and the rise of our inevitable robot overlords.
But, the truth of artificial intelligence -- and particularly machine learning -- is far less sinister, and it's actually not something of the far-off future. It's here today, and it's shaping and simplifying the way we live, work, travel and communicate.
Machine learning is one element (perhaps the driving force) of AI, whereby a computer is programmed with the ability to self-teach and improve its performance of a specific task. In essence, machine learning is all about analyzing big data -- the automatic extraction of information and using it to make predictions, decipher whether the prediction was correct, and if incorrect, learning from that to make a more correct prediction in the future.
Google, Amazon, Netflix and other monolithic online platforms use it to deliver semantic results based on algorithms that analyze a user's search, purchase and viewing history to predict what is it they're looking for or more likely to want.
The data they have at their disposal is massive. A recent global digital report published by We Are Social and Hootsuite states that the number of people using the internet to search has hit 4 billion people in 2018. Every second, there are approximately 40,000 searches processed, which equates to 3.5 billion a day, or an incredible 1.2 trillion searches per year. Each year, humanity spends the equivalent of 1 billion years online.
That's a staggering amount of data gathered every day, and it would be impossible to analyze without the help of machine learning. But, the implications of machine learning go far beyond satiating our seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge and cat GIFs. Machine learning is being increasingly integrated into all industries and every facet of our workday and leisure time -- through the automation of manual labor, improving our connectivity and the way we live and shaping the future of AI and the internet of Things (IoT).