avatarDr John Frederick Rose


Understanding AI is muddied by language and social media.

Difficulty of word choices muddies AI debates.

An image of the robot ‘Kismet’. By Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 FR <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/fr/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 France license.

Must admit got tired of AI negativity even though subconsciously feel threatened.

Came across article in Harvard Business Review (HBR), Puts forward a working together perspective that formed story’s basis.

Origins of AI.

1955 John McCarthy Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Dartmouth College organized workshop to clarify and develop ideas about thinking machines, He coined term “Artificial Intelligence” for this new research field.

September 2 1955 AI project proposed as 2-month 10-man study of artificial intelligence during 1956 summer at Dartmouth College.

Study based on conjecture that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that machine can be made to simulate it”.

68 years later original project yet to deliver, No precise description of intelligence, No machine capable of simulating human intelligence, All announced timeframes exceeded.

Research continues in field renamed as “Artificial General Intelligence”, However out of original AI research came commercially successful Machine Learning and Deep learning tools for pattern recognition.

These AI tools are reductionist algorithms for detecting and predicting patterns in huge datasets, They’re neither intelligent nor sentient, No self-awareness, Just tools for humans.

Language Problem.

Cited articles are interesting with positive views of humans increasingly using AI systems, But their language choices trouble me.

All of them use phrases like “collaborative intelligence” or “working together”, Implying AI is somehow intelligent and similar to that of humans, Choice of language confused and misleading, Continues myth of intelligent machines taking over.

Problem is not AI but humans promoting misconceptions of AI’s existing potentials and capabilities, Perhaps from perspective of creating economic advantage?

Evolving language.

English, like most human languages is very adaptable, Take word “computer”, coined by Sir Thomas Browne 1646, Referred to someone who makes a calculation about dates.

Oxford English Dictionary states that “computer” used 1613 book called “The Yong Mans Gleanings” by English writer Richard Brathwait, Brathwait usage referred to human computer as person who carried out calculations or computations.

Easily adapted and now “computer” mainly refers to machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of operations or computations automatically.

Evolution of language starts at artifact’s invention, But then language and technology go their separate ways, In case of AI, My thought is Deep Learning and Machine Learning’s popular meaning has been conflated with original 1956 term “Artificial Intelligence” as proposed by John McCarthy, but technology of both tools has only been refined and then applied to multiple applications, Creating gap between public comprehension and technical language.

Feeling Threatened by Technology.

Since Industrial Revolution started in 1760, Rapid technical advances made people of every society stratum feel threatened by change, Loss of jobs and income, Loss of community values, Family disruptions.

Experienced people’s fear of computers and now invention of AI, Perceived impact of AI made worse by belief AI is intelligent, No longer concerned about loss of jobs but fear of AI replacing humans, All this exacerbated by modern social media’s echo chamber effects.

Looking back, Choice of term “Artificial Intelligence” root cause of today’s deep rooted fears, I see no end to these terrible feelings.

Blessed be.

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