They can see patterns in what they do, but you have to tell it what to look for in patterns, then what to do with it.
If I had a microphone input, my form1 wouldn't start doing text to speech unless i told it i was speaking, and these words represent strings or actions, which we pickup as children.
And as children, we can't be told that they are actions, we learn. The day microsoft releases an application that can learn without being told what to learn, is the day computers learn.
The issue of what action to take after something is learned is not, strictly speaking, part of machine learning. As for whether computers can learn without being told what to learn, I think the answer is both yes and no. Yes in the sense of unsupervised learning techniques such as clustering (K-means) that discover clusters within data via squared-distance minimization. No in the sense that even unsupervised learning techniques have various parameters that need to be adjusted to give reasonable solutions e.g. in K-means one needs to specify the number of clusters. Incidentally, brain research has shown that a form of unsupervised learning -- competitive learning -- occurs when we learn about smells (olfaction). One application of this form of learning has been for object recognition technology.