AI vs Generative AI: What’s the Difference?

By Gabriela Jhean

Professional comparing AI vs Generative AI tools

Artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI are two powerful branches of computer science that have become a normal component of our daily lives, with even law firms getting in on AI software.

While both AI and generative AI are revolutionizing a range of industries, their functionalities differ greatly. Understanding these differences is paramount to leveraging their full potential.

In this article, you’ll discover the difference between AI and generative AI, where they overlap, and their limitations. We’ll also explore future advancements poised to propel AI even further.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) uses computer systems to mimic human intelligence and perform tasks. These systems rely on algorithms and data to make autonomous decisions, learn from previous experiences, and adapt to new situations. Traditional AI has proven useful in various domains, including problem-solving, decision-making, and automating complex processes.

All in all, traditional AI’s strength lies in analyzing and interpreting existing data. While it can identify trends and patterns that might suggest new applications or solutions, it does not possess the ability to conceive entirely new ideas from scratch.

What Is Generative AI?

Generative AI is a branch of AI that focuses specifically on generating new content, such as images, text, or music. Unlike traditional AI systems, which are programmed with specific rules and algorithms, generative AI systems are trained on large datasets. They learn to form new content by identifying patterns and creating new variations based on those patterns. This allows generative AI systems to create original, creative content.

Traditional AI vs Generative AI

While both systems fall under the AI umbrella, there are some key differences between them.


The main difference between AI and generative AI lies in their functionality. 

Traditional AI systems are designed to perform specific tasks or solve problems. They follow pre-defined rules and algorithms to accomplish these tasks. For example, a traditional AI system can be trained to recognize and classify images of trees and flowers based on certain features.

On the other hand, generative AI systems are not limited to specific tasks. They are trained on vast amounts of data and can generate new content based on the patterns they learn from that data. For example, a generative AI system can be trained on tree and flower images and generate new images resembling trees and flowers, even if they have never seen those specific images before.

Use Cases

Traditional AI systems have a wide range of applications across various industries. They are used in fields such as finance, marketing, healthcare, and transportation—to name just a few. For example, AI-powered chatbots are used in customer service to provide quick responses to customer inquiries.

Generative AI systems, on the other hand, have unique use cases that revolve around content creation. They can generate graphics for ad campaigns, create personalized music playlists, or even generate text for creative writing purposes. The creative potential of generative AI is vast, and it is continuously evolving as the technology advances.

Training & Development

The training and development processes for traditional AI and generative AI also differ. 

Traditional AI systems are trained using supervised or unsupervised learning algorithms. Supervised learning involves training the system on labeled data—where the correct answers are provided—while unsupervised learning involves training the system on unlabeled data and allowing it to find patterns on its own.

Generative AI systems are trained using a technique called generative adversarial networks (GANs). GANs use two networks to continuously improve the generated content: 

  1. A generator network creates new content (like text, images, or music).
  2. A discriminator network evaluates the generated content and provides feedback to the generator network. 

This iterative process of generating and evaluating content helps the generative AI system improve over time.

User Interaction

Users interact differently with traditional AI and generative AI. 

Traditional AI systems are typically designed to perform specific tasks. Because of this, they have more specialized user interfaces. Users can interact with these systems through software dashboards, call center screens, and web-based interfaces.

Generative AI systems are more interactive and collaborative. Users can provide input or constraints, and the system will generate content based on those inputs. For example, a user can provide a few keywords or a rough outline, and the technology can generate a complete article based on that input. This collaborative approach allows for more personalized and creative content generation.

Core Users

Traditional AI systems are commonly used by businesses and organizations to automate processes, improve efficiency, and gain insights from data. For example, a marketing team might use AI to analyze user data and identify trends that can inform their marketing strategies.

Generative AI systems are often used by creative professionals, such as artists, designers, and musicians, to augment their creative process. These professionals can use generative AI tools to generate new ideas, explore different possibilities, and push the boundaries of their creativity. Generative AI empowers these users to go beyond what they can achieve on their own and unlock new creative potential.

Overlap Between AI and Generative AI: Terminology

While AI and Generative AI are distinct concepts, there is some overlap in the terminology used to describe them. Let’s define some key terms to clarify their meanings.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI): a broad term encompassing the development and use of computer systems capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence.
  • Machine learning: is a subset of AI that trains systems to learn from data and make decisions or predictions based on patterns.
  • Neural networks: a type of machine learning algorithm that mimics the structure and function of the human brain—allowing AI systems to learn and process complex data.
  • Deep learning: a subfield of machine learning that uses neural networks with multiple layers to learn and extract features from data.
  • Generative AI: a subset of AI that focuses on generating new content, such as text or images, based on patterns learned from data.

Here’s a visual aid for how these terms relate to one another:

Relationship between AI, machine learning, neural networks, deep learning, and generative AI

What Are Some Limitations of AI?

While AI has made remarkable strides, it’s not without limitations. AI models heavily depend on large amounts of quality data for training, and biased or insufficient data can lead to skewed results. 

Additionally, AI systems lack true understanding and common-sense reasoning, limiting their ability to handle unstructured and ambiguous situations. Ethical concerns, like data privacy and algorithmic bias, also pose challenges to AI adoption.

Lastly, AI systems can only perform tasks they have been trained for. They lack the flexibility and adaptability of human intelligence, which can limit their usefulness in dynamic or highly complex situations. 

The Future of AI

The world of AI is vast and ever-evolving. While traditional AI excels at analyzing data and automating tasks, generative AI adds a revolutionary twist by creating entirely new content. Understanding the difference between AI and generative AI is crucial to effectively navigating this rapidly developing field.

As for what’s next, a convergence between the two is only a matter of time. By leveraging the unique capabilities of each system, more powerful and innovative solutions are bound to emerge. It will no longer be a question of traditional AI vs generative AI, but instead, a focus on harnessing their synergy.

The legal field is a prime example of an industry ripe for AI-powered innovation. Legal professionals can leverage AI for tasks like document review, contract analysis, and legal research. Tools like MyCase IQ and ChatGPT for lawyers can free up valuable time to focus on legal issues and client strategy. There are several benefits of AI for lawyers and these tools provide a glimpse into the exciting future of legal AI technology.

More Legal AI Resources

People Also Ask 

What is the difference between generative AI and AI?

Traditional AI makes its predictions and decisions using programmed historical data, pre-defined rules, and algorithms, while generative AI learns to form new content, like images, text, and music, by identifying patterns and creating new variations based on those patterns.

What is the difference between generative AI and cognitive AI?

Generative AI revolves around creating unique content such as text and images via patterns from existing data. Cognitive AI this process to the next level where machines think (and even surpass) human thought processes and decision making via machine learning and natural language processing.

Why has generative AI taken off so quickly?

Increases in overall productivity, efficiency, and creative potential have contributed to generative AI’s fast development and adoption.

What is the downside of generative AI?

Disadvantages of generative AI include hallucination errors, potential ethical issues, and data privacy concerns.

What comes next after generative AI?

There are many different possibilities for what may come next including AI in education via intelligent tutoring systems, conversational AI, and AI in healthcare in the form of assisting doctors.