Treating machine learning (ML) as an opportunity in modern society is an underestimation. It's right, that ML will become important in nearly all jobs and many university are providing courses in the subject, but the real advantage goes far beyond that outlook. With machine learning, or to be more general with Artificial Intelligence, it's possible to extend the life-span of humans, provide food for the world, let cars drive for themself and to make people smarter. In short, ML is not only something which can be studied for fun, but ML is similar to magic. That means, it provides superpower known from comic books.
From a technical perspective, machine learning is often described as a statistical regression algorithm similar to Fourier analysis. Additionally, term machine learning is used in a certain context because the idea is to realize computer vision applications, to program speech recognition and to control robotics movement. In that extended definition ML is similar to future in general. That means, if somebody plans to build a world known from science fiction movies which includes timetravel, robotics, unlimited lifespan and the ability to jump 10 meters high with a jetpack, he will need machine learning and nothing else. It's some kind of universal force which pervades everything. It's not only a mathematical formula or an enabling technology for robotics, ML is a religion.
Machine learning has the goal of Artificial Intelligence which means to build intelligent machines. Artificial Intelligence is a substep towards Singularity, which is equal to a fundamental breakthrough in all scientific topics like medicine, physics, economy and philosophy. So it's no exaggeration to see machine learning not as simple formula but as an ideology which will result into advancement for mankind.