Chapter 2 What is machine learning?

Rather than starting out with a technical definition lets put the technology into context. Machine learning (ML) is a so called “general purpose technology (GPT)” which means it can affect entire economies, this can happen on national but also on global level. Also GPTs can have a massive impact on society.

Characteristics and examples of GPT

Electricity is a very good example to compare ML to, because many companies just replaced their source of power in their factories rather than taking advantage of the new possibilities small electric motors gave them to restructure their production process.

Fruit for thought on how ML can be applied to a variety of tasks is given in chapter 3 and 15.

From a more technical point of view machine learning is a sub domain of artificial intelligence and has several definitions:

“Field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed”

— Arthur Samuel:1

"Learn from experience E with respect to some task T and some performance measure P, if its performance on T, as measured by P, improves with experience E

— Tom Mitchell2


  1. American pioneer in the field of computer gaming and artificial intelligence https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Samuel↩︎

  2. Professor of Computer Science and Machine Learning at Carnegie Mellon http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tom/↩︎