What is machine learning in layman's terms?

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence that allows computers to learn from data without being programmed directly.

In a nutshell, machine learning helps computers improve their performance over time by improving the accuracy of data-driven predictions.

Let me, myself a non-ML background person, explain it with examples:

  • Have you ever done any online shopping? Did you notice that when you search for a product, it suggests products related to what you’re looking for? Or did you see a “the person who bought this product also bought this” set of items? How are they implementing this suggestion? This is machine learning.
  • Have you ever received a call from a bank or financial firm requesting that you take out a loan or purchase an insurance policy? Do they make a call to everyone? No, they phone a few customers who they believe will buy their product. How do they choose? This is target marketing, and Clustering can be used to implement it. This is machine learning.