In the past, computer applications couldn’t perform a task unless humans first provided explicit instructions on how to accomplish the task. Those instructions are called “programming.” Although sophisticated programming can yield impressive results, a traditional computer application can’t do something humans didn’t include in its programming.
Generative AI systems are more flexible because they rely on machine learning, which doesn’t require explicit programming. Instead, humans give computers access to large amounts of data. The machines train themselves to recognize patterns in that data and, most importantly, to draw conclusions from what they’ve learned. (That’s where the learning part of “machine learning” comes in.) The size and quality of the dataset is important. AI is only as good as the data on which it’s trained.
Answering the question “How does generative AI work?” is complex, and gaining a deep understanding of it requires effort. The beauty of generative AI, however, is that you don’t need to understand everything about it to benefit from it. You can simply find an app, such as Firefly, type in what you want to see — “three labradoodle puppies run on the grass” — and presto, you’re now a generative AI user. No programming degree required.