13.3. Machines, AI & Humans

Current development of intelligent machines is focused on mimicing human behavior to perform complex tasks. Applications of AI are proliferating, and being integrated into our every day lives. Explore the examples in the activity below. Which of these examples of everyday technology incorporate AI?

Machines vs AI

Machines and AI systems may appear to be the same, but their systems and mode of operation are vastly different.

  • Machines that incorporate AI are typically capable of analyzing data, and they appear to “make decisions”, similar to humans.
  • Regular machines simply execute a series of commands and are unable to improve based on the data they receive.

Example: Machine vs AI

A great example of the difference between machines and AI systems is the platform Grammarly versus your typical spell check. While a spelling checker is able to correct your spelling, grammar, and punctuation, Grammarly can do all that, as well as check for issues in sentence structure, misused words, and more through the power of AI.

A key distinction between a computer following the code vs an AI system executing this is that with AI, the algorithm would become smarter as more data is entered and the number of errors would decrease over time. AI models are created through algorithms, which are a set of rules or processes to solve a specific problem or task.[1]

Example: Algorithm

Imagine you were given some numbers and were tasked with developing an algorithm that sorts the numbers from lowest to highest. What would be the set of steps that you would need to follow to accomplish this task?

One solution would probably be to first define the range of numbers and set some criteria for the computer to follow. Next, write a specific set of instructions on how you would like to order the numbers. For example, you may want the computer to sort the numbers lowest to highest. If there are several datasets, sometimes a loop, which is a part of code that allows a command to run again and again would be used to ensure the computer completes the command over and over until all datasets are sorted. The algorithm would then execute the commands one by one and any errors would be attributed to a mistake in the code.


AI vs Humans 

The disctinction between AI and simple machines has been made, but how is AI different from humans? AI and Humans are different in a number of ways. Apart from humans being biological, live organisms, a key difference is the type and level of intelligence we possess.[2] We are able to make decisions based on our intelligence, emotions, self-awareness, and creativity, whereas most machines simply perform tasks based on code written by programmers. The main goal behind the advancement of machines and computers is to make these systems more efficient and “smarter” to support humans, which is now being accomplished through AI.

However, tasks that involve emotional intelligence or intuition cannot be automated. A machine will make decisions based on facts and statistical data but cannot, for example, recognize emotions, and thus would not be able to make rational decisions. AI lacks the “Human Factor”. The table below compares natural (human) and artifical intellignece for a range of different abilities on a scale of acheivement (low to high).

Ability Natural Artificial
Creativity and imagination high low
Learn from experience high med
Use sensors high med
Adapt to new situations high med
Perform complex calculations high high
Transfer information high high
Perform calculations accurately and efficiently high high


  1. de Ponteves, H. (2019). AI Crash Course: A fun and hands-on introduction to machine learning, reinforcement learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence with Python. Birmingham: Packt Publishing Ltd.
  2. Vadapalli, P. (2020, September 15). AI vs Human Intelligence: Difference Between AI & Human Intelligence. upGrad blog.  https://www.upgrad.com/blog/ai-vs-human-intelligence/.
  3. Stair, R. & Reynolds, G. (2017). Principles of Information Systems. Cengage. 


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Information Systems for Business and Beyond by Shauna Roch; James Fowler; Barbara Smith; and David Bourgeois is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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