Artificial Intelligence is intelligence displayed by machines, in contrast with the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. The term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”. Machine Learning on the other hand is an extension of Artificial Intelligence and is a field of computer science that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed to do so.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are often used interchangeably but they are distinct ideas, and both are back in the news – both technology news and pop culture news. But there was a time when Artificial Intelligence was all the rage in pop culture, from films to tv to comics, every aspect of pop culture had a slice of AI. One of the most popular such depiction of Artificial Intelligence was the sitcom Small Wonder.
Small Wonder was about a little girl robot called Vici or Voice Input Child Identicant who becomes part of the Lawson family and hijinks ensue. But the reason we write about the show is long before Machine Learning became a thing, Vici showed remarkable progress in the field. Vici was a robot, a very good example of Artificial Intelligence but throughout the run of the show, she showed remarkable progress in adapting to situations and learning new things, whether actions or language or ideas, and most importantly, without being programmed to do so. This was an early example of Machine Learning in popular culture, long before Machine Learning was a buzzword like it is today.
Popular Culture, especially science fiction has often pre-empted actual scientific inventions, but that’s a discussion for another day. Small Wonder then that AI and Machine Learning also found a place in popular fiction which kind of pre-empted this by a few decades, the Machine Learning part at least!