We certainly live in interesting times. There are “intelligent” devices everywhere. They help us to make smarter decisions (finding the fastest way home), remember things (picking up milk on the way home) and deal with the unexpected (where is the nearest gas station). The term “intelligent” is sometimes used to describe such conveniences, although most of us would agree that we have a long way to go before these applications behave in a way that we would call truly intelligent. There are promising advances taking place in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We are re-thinking everything from medical diagnosis to counter-terrorism in the context of amazing possibilities. At the same time, we have a long way to go before there is any real “intelligence” in AI. Sometimes, I wonder if we will forever face the reality that our machines can be no smarter than we make them (more on this topic later). I imagine a nerdy joke where a robot walks into a bar (where else would it go?) and tells the bartender to shut down his business because the finest predictive algorithms have concluded that all businesses eventually terminate, therefore, the closing is inevitable. This scenario is funny if you are a nerd…really.
The Terminology: New words for new things
One of the problems with discussions about AI is that the term is so broad. We have the same issue with other terms but they have been around long enough that there is common understanding. For example, the term “home entertainment” seems to be well-understood. For me, this term conjures up images of flat-screen TVs, stereo equipment, and maybe a Bluetooth device or two to tie it all together. For others, the term may refer to gaming systems. I know an orchestra conductor who built a performance space inside his home. For him, “home entertainment” means inviting a few friends over to perform live chamber music. So, we see that even a widely-accepted term can have both general and specific meaning.
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By Anthony Scriffignano, Ph.D., SVP, Chief Data Scientist, Dun & Bradstreet