How Machines Learn — A non-expert guide to artificial intelligence

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Artificial intelligence is one of the most important technologies of our time. AI is everywhere – it is a technology that is diffusing through everything and it touches our lives every day. This is because we are increasingly governed by our digital selves and AI powers the digital world. 

​We have spent years researching AI. We were early to understand how intelligent machines would change our relationship with search, with competition, with social and with jobs. We are still early in our views on the future of work, employee experience and human-machine collaboration. 

When it comes to understanding AI, we are passionate about the basics. Understanding the basics makes it easier to unpick what AI can and cannot do, where the opportunities lie and where the threats are real. Because AI is a mash up of big data, vast computing power and math, understanding it can be a real challenge for anyone other than a data scientist or an engineer in a tech company. 

We are passionate about understanding AI, because it is becoming more “human” with voice assistants and AI interfaces that give us connection and make us feel emotion. This is a fundamental change from the software of the past and it’s possible because of the interdependency between the data we provide it and the mathematics of machine learning.

All of this can seem overwhelming or beyond our ability to understand as non-experts. But that’s not the case. With a basic understanding of algebra, statistics or calculus it’s possible to understand the internal mechanics of any and all AI. So we put together this short explainer to show the math behind the most common and popular AI algorithms. With this explainer you will be able to understand how facial recognition works, how Siri and Alexa can answer your questions and how Netflix knows what you want to watch next.

At Sonder Scheme, we help humans win in the age of AI, with practical services, training and tools. We combine deep expertise in AI with decades of experience working with leading organizations including Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Fonterra, Google, Morgan Stanley, National Headstart Association, the New York Times, Quartz, Transpower NZ, US Department of Energy and the World Green Building Council.

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Sign up for our newsletter, Artificiality, to get our latest AI insights delivered directly to your email inbox.