AI seems scary. But why?

Artificial Intelligence is making the news these days, and not always in a good way.

I’m going to take a mild diversion for this week’s article and talk about how we can reposition and rebrand AI in a way that helps show its benefits to society.

What’s in a name? Artificial connotes unnatural, created in a lab far away from the positive influence of everyday people. Another word for artificial is Synthetic. When we think of synthetic we think of plastics and pollution and cleaning up our oceans. On the other hand, innovative companies like Rash’R are creating incredible things from recycled plastic for the benefit of surfers and other water-lovers; the vegan community is keen that we have a lighter environmental footprint, replacing animal sources with vegetable sources, for example, and potentially making more use of synthetic materials. Placed in the right context, synthetics are useful, valuable, desirable even. But the word Synthetic, like Artificial, tends to generate fear and mistrust. Instinctively, we fear change.

What if AI was described differently?

Here are 5 alternative interpretations:

  1. Additive Intelligence – lots of little add-ons that each add to your natural abilities. For example, smart glasses that help you see better in low light conditions, or hearing aids that translate languages in real time (The Babel Fish).
  2. Assistive Intelligence – this technology can assist by extracting relevant insights from large volumes of data, and presenting those to you in a way that makes sense. This could benefit businesses, or individuals who have trouble processing a lot of information.
  3. Altruistic Intelligence – in any situation it looks for and highlights the best outcomes for all interested parties. Like a win-win engine. Or maybe it just reminds you to tip more or give more to charity.
  4. Attentive Intelligence – always on the lookout for little things that you may have missed, for example subtle social cues, changes in weather, or hard-to-spot roadsigns.
  5. Adaptive Intelligence – grows with us and learns from our experiences. This tech is with us for the long term.

By building and labelling technology according to its benefits to people and businesses, we remove the fear factor and really start to embrace the new.

AI can do so much for us if we and the technologists can work together and find a way to make it less about how it works and more about how it works for us. What are the things we can’t do well? What don’t we want to do? What would enhance our lives? If we identify those, AI is something that can help us to flourish.

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