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What Is the Difference Between Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and Big Data?

Feb. 20, 2017

The concepts of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Big Data have become increasingly important. However, these terms are often confused.

We are going to explain the differences between these buzzwords in a simple way. First, we will clarify the concepts and then we will focus on their differences.

Artificial Intelligence

When we commonly talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI), we usually refer to machines that are capable of learning and thinking in a human-like way. Actually, it is an ever-changing concept. For example, optical character recognition (known as OCR) was one of the first practical applications of Artificial Intelligence. However, since today it is a common technology, it is no longer perceived as Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence has been applied in a wide range of fields, including Natural Language Processing (to understand human language) or artificial vision (for example, to recognize objects in a photograph). It is also commonly used in knowledge representation, classification, clustering, prediction, or recommendation.

Machine Learning

Machine Learning is a branch of Artificial Intelligence dedicated, as the name implies, to learn. It is usually the core of most AI applications, but it is often combined with other technologies. For instance, to understand human written language it is necessary to apply knowledge of morphology, syntax, synonymy, statistics, etc. Once a model is built with this knowledge, machine learning can help us understand and classify new texts.

Deep Learning

Deep Learning is a branch of Machine Learning. Although born in the nineties with the appearance of neural networks, it is considered one of the newest branches. Today, thanks to the latest advances in computing, it is possible to relate observation fields that until recently had to be treated independently.

Big Data

The term Big Data refers to new technologies capable of processing vast amounts of data. This trend has been gaining momentum since the digital data explosion in 2010. This data analysis may be merely statistical and it does not necessarily imply the use of Artificial Intelligence. However, it is common to employ Machine Learning in some tasks, for example to detect previously hidden patterns.


In short, we can explain the differences between these four concepts by ordering them. Deep Learning is a new branch of Machine Learning, which is in turn a branch of Artificial Intelligence. Big Data is not necessarily related to Artificial Intelligence since it is a set of independent technologies designed to manage large volumes of data.

Finally, we always like to point out that Artificial Intelligence is very artificial, meaning that it is a product of human activity. So far, it is not very intelligent by itself. That is, Artificial Intelligence projects keep demanding a lot of human work. Maybe we should call it Big Artificial.