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Demystifying the Terminology: Key AI and ML Terms Explained in Simple Language 

June 19th, 2023

In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are no longer just buzzwords confined to the realm of science fiction.  

These technologies have permeated every industry, transforming the way we live, work, and interact. As AI and ML continue to gain traction, businesses and individuals alike need to grasp the core concepts and terminology underpinning them. However, the jargon that accompanies these fields can be daunting for the uninitiated. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, refers to computer systems that can perform tasks which typically require human intelligence. This broad field encompasses various sub-disciplines, with Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and Natural Language Processing being among the most prominent. 

Key Concepts in ML 

Machine Learning is a subset of AI that enables computers to learn from data without being explicitly programmed. By recognizing patterns in large datasets, ML algorithms can make predictions, improve over time, and adapt to new inputs.  

For example, ML powers recommendation engines on e-commerce websites, suggesting products based on a customer’s browsing history and preferences. 

Supervised Learning 

Supervised Learning involves computers learning from labeled data, consisting of input-output pairs with known, correct answers. Algorithms adjust their predictions based on these answers, honing their ability to produce accurate results.

For example, email spam filters use Supervised Learning to effectively identify and categorize spam and non-spam emails based on labeled datasets. 

Unsupervised Learning 

Unsupervised Learning doesn’t rely on labeled data. Instead, computers analyze data to identify hidden patterns, structures, or relationships. 

This approach is particularly useful for tasks like customer segmentation, where companies can leverage these insights to group customers with similar interests or preferences, leading to more targeted and effective marketing campaigns. 

Reinforcement Learning 

Reinforcement Learning involves learning through trial and error. In this method, computers refine their actions based on a system of rewards and penalties, gradually improving their performance. 

Reinforcement Learning has proven valuable in applications like robotics, where robots can learn to navigate complex environments, and gaming, where computers can master strategic games like chess or Go. 

Feature Engineering 

Feature Engineering is the process of selecting, transforming, and optimizing the most important data attributes, or features, to enhance a computer’s learning process. By focusing on the most relevant features, an algorithm’s performance and accuracy can be significantly improved. For instance, in a credit score prediction model, features such as income, credit history, and employment status would be critical in determining an individual’s creditworthiness. 

Overfitting and Underfitting 

Overfitting and underfitting are two common challenges in Machine Learning. Overfitting occurs when a computer model learns too much from its training data, capturing not only the underlying patterns but also random noise. This results in poor performance when applied to new, unseen data.  

On the other hand, underfitting happens when a model fails to identify and learn important patterns in the data, resulting in suboptimal predictions.  

Both of these issues can be addressed using techniques like cross-validation, which assesses the model’s performance on different subsets of data, and regularization, which adds constraints to prevent overfitting, ultimately leading to balanced and accurate models. 

Key concepts in DL 

Deep Learning is a more advanced form of Machine Learning that leverages artificial neural networks to emulate the way the human brain processes information. This approach allows computers to handle complex tasks like image recognition and language translation with remarkable accuracy. 

By utilizing multiple layers of interconnected nodes or neurons, Deep Learning models can automatically learn complex features and patterns in data, making them highly effective for a wide range of applications. A well-known example is Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo, which outperformed the world champion in the ancient board game Go. 

Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) 

Artificial Neural Networks are the foundation of Deep Learning. Inspired by the structure and function of the human brain, ANNs consist of interconnected layers of nodes or neurons. These networks can process and learn from large amounts of data by adjusting the connections between neurons, enabling them to recognize intricate patterns. 

Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) 

Convolutional Neural Networks are a specialized type of ANN designed to handle image data. By employing convolutional layers that can detect local features in images, such as edges and textures, CNNs have become the go-to solution for tasks like image recognition and computer vision.

For example, CNNs are used in facial recognition systems and self-driving cars to identify objects and navigate environments. 

Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN) 

Recurrent Neural Networks are another type of ANN specifically designed to process sequential data, such as time series or natural language. RNNs have connections that loop back on themselves, allowing them to retain information from previous steps in the sequence.

This capability makes them well-suited for tasks like speech recognition, language translation, and text generation. 

Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) 

Generative Adversarial Networks consist of two ANNs, called the generator and the discriminator, that work together in a unique adversarial process. The generator creates realistic, synthetic data, while the discriminator attempts to distinguish between real and generated data. By competing against each other, both networks improve over time.

GANs have been used to create realistic images, art, and even deep fake videos, where a person’s appearance or voice is convincingly manipulated. 

Key concepts in NLP 

Natural Language Processing allows computers to understand and generate human language. interpret, and generate human language. NLP techniques are employed in various applications, such as sentiment analysis, language translation, and chatbots, allowing machines to engage in more natural interactions with humans.

For instance, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are virtual assistants that utilize NLP to understand and respond to voice commands, making our everyday lives more convenient.


Tokenization is the process of breaking text into smaller units, such as words or phrases, called tokens. This is a crucial step in NLP, as it allows computers to analyze and process language more effectively. For example, tokenization is used in search engines to understand and index web content. 

Sentiment Analysis 

Sentiment Analysis, also known as opinion mining, involves determining the sentiment or emotion behind a piece of text. This technique is often used by businesses to analyze customer feedback, helping them understand how people feel about their products or services and make improvements accordingly. 

Chatbots and Conversational AI 

Chatbots and Conversational AI are computer programs that use NLP to interact with users through text or speech. They can understand and respond to human language, providing assistance and information in a conversational manner.

Examples include customer support chatbots on websites and virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, which help users with tasks such as setting reminders, answering questions, and controlling smart home devices. 


Final Word 

As AI and ML continue to transform industries, it’s essential to understand their key concepts and terminology. This knowledge empowers businesses to harness the potential of these technologies, making informed decisions and staying ahead of the competition. 

By staying informed and embracing the power of AI and ML, individuals and businesses can shape a more efficient, intelligent, and prosperous future. 


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