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"Some Studies in Machine Learning Using the Game of Checkers."

While reputable sources in the field all have their own definitions of machine learning, the term first originated when computer gaming and AI pioneer Arthur Samuel coined it in a 1959 paper, "Some Studies in Machine Learning Using the Game of Checkers."

Samuel's research delved into his own studies showing how "a computer can be programmed so that it will learn to play a better game of checkers than can be played by the person who wrote the program."

Since then, many sources attribute the following quote to Samuel: "ML is the 'field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.'" And if you Google when the term was first used, this often comes up. But as users on StackExchange and Reddit have noted, the quote is most likely an interpretation gleaned from Samuel's original paper.

Some notable (and newer) definitions come from deep learning pioneer and Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio, who defines it as "part of research on artificial intelligence, seeking to provide knowledge to computers through data, observations and interacting with the world," adding that "That acquired knowledge allows computers to correctly generalize to new settings." And Stanford describes it simply as “the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed.”

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