By Dr. Randal S. Olson via Iris.xyz

Whether it’s reducing the time you wait at a traffic light, allowing your phone to respond to your voice, or preventing fraudulent charges to your credit card, it’s becoming apparent that our systems are increasingly being managed by the machines we built to operate them. And surprisingly, they’re often proving to be better at it than we are.

As someone who has spent the last ten years of my life devoted to developing and using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science tools, I’m comfortable with that trend. It’s making us better at a lot of important tasks, including the work I’m doing at Life Epigenetics, where we’re using machine learning to analyze epigenetic biomarkers from saliva, a process that will lower the cost of life insurance.

They’re also great tools to have some fun with. For instance, I used these tools to create a strategy to find Waldo as quickly as possible in the “Where’s Waldo” books, to optimize the driving route on road trips that will take you to all of the lower 48 U.S. states, and to determine the optimal attack strategy in the board game Battleship. All of these projects were featured on my blog and received some attention from others who weren’t necessarily data nerds. Whether you think those projects have any value is an issue for you to decide, but I couldn’t have completed them without some form of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science.

One thing to keep in mind is how these terms can be used and misused. Allow me take you through my world, the terms and the science that will help you understand what they mean, and how they can apply to your work and life.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): At a high level, artificial intelligence is an umbrella term for the dozens of approaches to creating intelligent machines that can perform a task and become better and more efficient at it without our direct intervention.

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