Deep Learning vs Machine Learning: What is the difference?

Serdar Palaoglu

In the realm of artificial intelligence, two fundamental concepts, Machine Learning and Deep Learning, have emerged as key components in the advancement of computer-based learning systems.

Machine Learning serves as a foundational principle where computers gain the ability to learn from data without explicit programming. Deep Learning, an evolution within the Machine Learning framework, utilizes artificial neural networks inspired by the human brain to achieve complex data analysis.

This article delves into a comprehensive exploration of these domains, elucidating their differences, practical applications, and significance in artificial intelligence.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning (ML) is a central component in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), which focuses on the study and development of algorithms and statistical models. These enable computer systems to improve their performance on a given task through exposure to data. At its core, ML looks for patterns, relationships, and structures in data, enabling machines to make informed decisions and predictions without explicit programming.

 Machine Learning


A classic example of machine learning is a recommendation system used by online retail websites to suggest products to customers. This model could use algorithms such as collaborative filtering, which makes predictions based on the behavior of similar users. For example, if user A buys a book and a coffee mug and user B buys the same book, the model could recommend a coffee mug to user B as well. The features used could include previous purchase history, items in the shopping basket, or frequently searched categories.

This is considered machine learning because the recommendation system uses algorithms to learn patterns from data and make predictions or decisions based on this. In this case, the model uses collaborative filtering to identify similarities between different users based on their behavior, such as past purchases or browsed items. Features such as purchase history or items in the shopping basket are often pre-defined based on domain knowledge and not automatically extracted from raw data.

The model is trained to learn the relationships between these features and the result (product recommendations) but does not have the multi-layered, hierarchical learning structure that characterizes deep learning. Essentially, the use of algorithmic learning to identify patterns and make recommendations, as well as manual feature selection, qualifies this as a machine learning task.

Linear regression

In the context of machine learning, linear regression is a supervised learning algorithm used to predict a numerical outcome based on input features. It models the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables by fitting a linear equation to the observed data. Essentially, it attempts to find the best-fitting straight line that predicts the output values in a range.

What is Deep Learning?

Deep learning is a branch of machine learning that focuses on algorithms inspired by the structure of the brain, in particular neural networks. It is particularly suitable for complex tasks such as image recognition, natural language processing, and autonomous driving.

The strength of deep learning lies in its multi-layered neural networks, which enable it to automatically extract important features from raw data, learn hierarchical representations, and perform end-to-end learning for a wide range of applications. This makes it particularly effective for tasks that involve large amounts of unstructured data or require an understanding of complex structures and relationships within the data.


An example of deep learning is image recognition, such as identifying whether an image contains a cat. You feed the neural network many images of cats and other objects, and the model automatically learns to identify features such as whiskers, tails, and ears. Over time, it gets better and better at recognizing cats in different poses and environments, without any human intervention in feature selection.

The image recognition task is considered deep learning because it uses a multi-layered neural network to learn from the data automatically. In this example, the neural network starts with raw pixel values as input and goes through several layers in which it independently learns important features such as whiskers, tails, and ears. These hierarchical layers of learning are what make it "deep" and enable the model to cope with the complexity and variation in different images of cats. This end-to-end learning from raw data without manual feature extraction is a hallmark of deep learning.

What is the difference between Machine Learning and Deep Learning?

Deep learning is a specialized subset of machine learning. Traditional machine learning algorithms are often designed to perform well even when the available data is limited, and they can often give reasonable predictions or classifications with fewer data points.

On the other hand, deep learning models are data-hungry by nature; they require large amounts of data to train effectively. This is because deep learning models have a greater number of parameters that need to be fine-tuned during the learning process. The larger the dataset, the better these models can fine-tune these parameters without overfitting.

What are the similarities between Machine Learning and Deep Learning?

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence that aims to enable computers to learn from data. Deep learning is a subbranch comprising in particular neural networks with many layers. Both machine learning in general and deep learning are used for pattern recognition, data classification, and prediction. In both cases, algorithms are trained on a dataset, and the performance of these algorithms is evaluated based on their ability to make accurate predictions or decisions on new, unseen data. Additionally, both machine learning and deep learning models go through similar phases of data collection, data preprocessing, model training, evaluation, and deployment. 

They both employ various optimization techniques, like gradient descent, to minimize errors during the training process. Furthermore, both types of learning can be supervised, unsupervised, or semi-supervised, depending on whether the training data is labeled, unlabeled, or partially labeled. In essence, deep learning is a specialized type of machine learning and shares many fundamental principles and practices with its broader field.


Machine Learning & Deep Learning

Learning Approach

Both aim to learn from data

Pattern Recognition

Used for classification and prediction

Training & Testing

Train on a dataset, test on new data

Optimization Techniques

Use methods like gradient descent

Supervision Types

Can be supervised, unsupervised, or semi-supervised

Evaluation Metrics

Use similar metrics like accuracy, F1 score, etc.

Data Preprocessing

Both may require data normalization, encoding, etc.


Deep learning and traditional machine learning serve the purpose of making sense of data, yet they differ substantially in their approaches and requirements. Machine learning is broader and provides approaches that work well with smaller datasets, offering a variety of models ranging from simple to complex. Feature extraction is often manual, and the models are generally more interpretable. In contrast, deep learning is a type of machine learning that specializes in handling large, unstructured datasets with algorithms that automatically learn features and are highly complex but less interpretable.

Despite their differences, both approaches are rooted in data-driven learning and share common stages like training, testing, and evaluation. Overall, the choice between the two often depends on the specific needs of a project, such as data size, complexity, and the requirement for human interpretability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is CNN traditional Machine Learning or Deep Learning?

Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) are a type of deep learning model. They are specialized for processing grid-structured data like images, making them highly effective for tasks such as image recognition, object detection, and more. CNNs utilize layers of convolutions, nonlinear activations, and pooling to automatically and adaptively learn spatial hierarchies of features from the input data. Due to their complexity and need for large datasets for effective training, CNNs are categorized under deep learning rather than traditional machine learning.