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  • Writer's pictureM.C.

Please Stop Calling It Artificial Intelligence

As an author, I enjoy working with the English language to convey an idea just as I want, or reading a skilled writer who can turn a phrase of wit, inspire action with the rhythm of a speech, or connect a character’s emotions directly to my own. Much can be conveyed in phrases and clauses, sentences and paragraphs—as well as between the lines themselves. In so many ways, words matter.

When reading everything from magazines to blog posts to tweets to novels, I regularly notice missed opportunities where several vague, stumbling words are used instead one or two perfect words. And my eye actually ticks when the wrong word is used or the message is deliberately misleading! One area where this seems to happen quite often is technology marketing, where juicy statements and bold claims lead to sales. Where it seems facts and accuracy should never get in the way of a punchy tagline.

But, I’m sorry to say, the “cloud” is just someone else’s computer, a “digital immune system” is just a comprehensive anti-virus approach, “hyperconnectivity” is simply connecting in real-time, and there is no “intelligence” in A.I. (They all sound pretty cool, so it seems the marketing team did their job.)

For some reason, our society is quick to glom onto science fiction terms and ideas, most likely in hopes that those fictional futures with flying cars and robotic maids is just around the corner instead of decades away. Admittedly, our society has made incredible strides in connectivity and computing, and the pace of change continues to accelerate, but what’s wrong with accurately describing what technology can do instead of applying a label of what we wish it did?

Within science fiction, the idea artificial intelligence has always included some level of true intelligence, whether that be conscious intent or self-awareness. From HAL processing conflicting orders to Roy Batty fearing death to Murderbot dealing with social anxiety, AIs regularly struggle with facets of humanity. They ask the questions we ask ourselves: why are we here and what does it all mean? The entire Battlestar Galactica reboot series is about both humans and cylons searching for their place in the universe, both literally and philosophically.

Discovering (or creating?) true artificial intelligence is very likely the culmination of decades if not centuries of more and more advanced computer programming, where such incredible complexity exists that there’s finally room for the spark of sentience, i.e. the ghost in the machine can come alive.

But mashing several paintings together into a new construct is not intelligence. Referencing thousands of documents to identify the top commonalities is not intelligence. Digging through gigabytes of transactional data to suggest products to purchase is not intelligence.

So let us please stop calling it such. Yes, it is some of the most complex programming we have done to date. But there’s no intelligence there. No self-awareness. No feeling. No emotion. No intent.

Why not save the label of artificial intelligence for when we actually achieve it? Is it such a crime to use words correctly?

1 Comment

Paul Martz
Paul Martz
May 20

I'm not saying you're right or wrong. But long ago, Ray Kurzweil made the observation that the bar for what constitutes "intelligence" gets raised every time a computer accomplishes something new.

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