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Deep-Learning vs Reinforcement Learning in AI

Lets take a closer look at what differentiates deep learning from reinforcement learning
Last Updated on June 13, 2023
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Have you ever wondered how artificial intelligence can differentiate between the images of a cat and a dog? Or how ChatGPT creates new content? It’s all the wonder of AI – but knowing about deep-learning vs reinforcement learning is key to understanding the nuance within this rapidly growing area of technology. 

AI has revolutionized countless industries, empowering machines to mimic human intelligence and make autonomous decisions. According to Statista, the global AI market is expected to grow 20 folds by 2030 to reach nearly $1,847.5 billion. Within the vast realm of AI are deep learning and reinforcement learning algorithms.

In this article, we will learn more about reinforcement and deep learning and how they differ.

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What Is Deep Learning?

Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that focuses on using artificial neural networks to mimic the function of the human brain. Deep learning models are designed to automatically learn and extract meaningful patterns or representations from large amounts of data under supervision.

These models consist of multiple layers of interconnected nodes (neurons). The developers feed a large chunk of data to these layered models that process and transform the input data. Each layer receives input from the previous layer and passes its output to the next layer, creating a hierarchical structure that increases in complexity.

The deep structure of these networks allows them to find patterns in these collections of data points. Deep learning neural networks learn based on these patterns. For example, after feeding a neural network with thousands of images of cats and other animals, it will learn to differentiate a picture of a cat from others. Likewise, even the GPT Model, the engine behind the immensely popular ChatGPT is an example of deep learning, since it finds patterns from old data and creates new content based on it.

One of the critical advantages of deep learning is its ability to automatically learn relevant features or representations from raw data, reducing the need for manual feature engineering. This makes deep learning particularly effective in domains such as computer vision, natural language processing, speech recognition, and many other areas where large datasets are available.

What Is Reinforcement Learning?

Reinforcement learning, also known as unsupervised learning, takes a different approach. It learns by performing actions. The AI agent gets rewarded if the steps are according to what was desired. If the move is wrong, the AI agent gets penalized. Based on when it receives a reward, the AI model keeps learning.

An example of reinforcement learning could be a robot trying to learn how to walk. In the first course of action, the robot could attempt to take a long step and fall. Since the robot fell, the AI model will understand that this was not the right approach. Hence, the model will take a smaller step in the second attempt. As such, it will continue to learn and get better.

Reinforcement learning algorithms use techniques to learn the optimal policy or value function. Some common approaches include Q-learning, policy gradients, and Monte Carlo methods. These algorithms aim to iteratively improve the agent’s decision-making abilities through experience and feedback from the environment.

Reinforcement Learning Vs. Deep Learning

While reinforcement learning and deep learning are both subsets of AI, they are different. Here are some differences between the two.

Basis of ComparisonReinforcement Learning Deep Learning
Learning approachLearns by performing actions and storing the resultsLearns by finding patterns in existing data
ApplicationsRobotics, telecommunications, robotics trading, etcImage and voice recognition, Natural Language Processing, etc.
Data RequiredDoesn’t require an extensive data set because of its exploratory natureRequires a large set of preexisting data set to identify patterns and learn from

Applications of Reinforcement Learning and Deep Learning

Both reinforcement learning and deep learning have found many applications across various industries. Here are some of the most popular applications of deep and reinforcement learning.

Applications of Reinforcement Learning (RL):

Game Playing

RL has been used to develop game-playing agents that can learn to play games like chess, Go, and video games. Notable examples include AlphaGo and OpenAI’s Dota 2-playing bot.


Robotics: RL has found applications in robotics, where agents learn to perform tasks through trial and error. RL trains robot manipulators, locomotion systems, and autonomous drones.

Applications of Deep Learning (DL):

Computer Vision

DL has revolutionized computer vision tasks, including image classification, object detection, and semantic segmentation. DL models, such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs), have achieved state-of-the-art performance on various visual recognition tasks.

Natural Language Processing

Natural Language Processing (NLP): DL can perform advanced NLP tasks, including machine translation, sentiment analysis, named entity recognition, and text generation. DL models, such as recurrent neural networks (RNNs) and transformers, have significantly improved language processing capabilities.

Speech Recognition and Synthesis

Speech Recognition and Synthesis: DL models, such as deep neural networks (DNNs) and recurrent neural networks (RNNs), have significantly advanced speech recognition and synthesis systems. DL has played a crucial role in virtual assistants and speech-to-text systems.


Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning are powerful AI techniques, each with strengths and applications. Deep learning excels in pattern recognition and making predictions, while Reinforcement Learning focuses on decision-making and learning through interaction.

Peter's keen interest in technology has led him to focus AI and networking for PC Guide, with a view on how to get the best out of both.