back to article ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was 2016's fake news

“Fake news” vexed the media classes greatly in 2016, but the tech world perfected the art long ago. With “the internet” no longer a credible vehicle for Silicon Valley’s wild fantasies and intellectual bullying of other industries – the internet clearly isn’t working for people – “AI” has taken its place. Almost everything you …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Will Andrew be burned at the stake for this heresy?

    There's much truth to this article and much could be said along the same lines about IoT. Too much money and too many egos at stake for them to shrug and say "Not yet and not for a long time or maybe even... never." One has to love the buzzword game that gets big money flowing....

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. SVV Silver badge

      Re: Will Andrew be burned at the stake for this heresy?

      I thought he would, as I've been heavily downvoted for making preety much the same points before in the comments section. Maybe the true believers are stilll hungover right now, or their self driving cars have driven them all into the same river due to a bit of buggy test code that got left in using the year 2017 as a test case.

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Will Andrew be burned at the stake for this heresy?

      AI and IoT keep reminding me of the preciance of Douglas Adams.

      We are the Golgafrinchans - we're replacing the "useless" third of our population with Amazon Dash buttons, "smart" cameras, chatbots and the like.

      OK, I'll get my cellphone, I'm off to the B ark now - I'll Facebook you when we arrive.

    4. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Will Andrew be burned at the stake for this heresy?

      No matches being applied to the pyre from this here IP address.

      The only thing that I'd disagree with Andrew on is that 2017 would be the year that it all started to unravel. I'd say that it's already started with Google effectively abandoning their self driving car effort, all the way back when in 2016. Self driving is probably the most ambitious AI challenge that was being contemplated and, unsurprisingly, it turns out they couldn't make it work and don't know how to go about improving it. Apple have also wound their necks in on their equivalent ambitions. Uber look positively behind the times in persisting with their endeavour, which has only just got going. And with the big tech-companies running into difficulty, the threat of them disrupting the traditional auto manufacturers' business is diminshed, so they too will drop the topic with a quiet, unpublicised thud.

      Unfortunately, juding from various electoral results across the world, one might also have to conclude that human intelligence also started to unravel quite badly in 2016 too. Rise of the machines? Hardly. What we actually got was the Rise of the Trump.

      1. AndyS

        Re: Will Andrew be burned at the stake for this heresy?

        > Google effectively abandoning their self driving car effort

        I must have missed that. Wikipedia makes it sound alive and well, do you have a link to something more... interesting?

    5. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Conclusive proof there is no AI uprising...

      As your post has no downvotes, that means none of the AI has risen up to comment on here...

      ... unless it is clever enough to stay hidden, and was not baited to defend itself by comments on its stupidity.

    6. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Will Andrew be burned at the stake for this heresy?

      Yeah, the hype of the IoT,.... why do I need to switch my lights on and off when I'm not home, exactly? My heating is on a timer, and if it's especially cold I light a fire,... I'd need an IoT robot that can chop kindling and be trusted with matches. For some reason I now have an image of a Roomba setting fire to my sofa in my head.

  2. Alan Bourke

    Great to see.

    Some sense being spoken about the avalanche of bullshit where pattern recognition etc gets pimped as artificial intelligence.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Great to see.

      Quite. We suffer from being mushroomed by too much Silicon Valley bullish*t these days. So-called 'live person chat' is just pattern recognition coupled with some poor sod sitting in a callcentre warehouse in Bangalore, yet all marketed as 'cutting edge AI'.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Great to see.

      Agree. Years ago I wrote about those AI guys who walk around the country from company to company and no matter how often you switch employer, there they come again. Same speech year after year looking smart and well payed. Perhaps that's what annoyed me, should perhaps have made more money talking about the flying car for 35 years instead of programming.

      I think part of the problem is in that stupid combination of words, like dry water or cold warm water or an intelligent idiot (no I am not referring to him). Perhaps we should ask Hawking, who has some experience of both words to give us a better expression for it.

      PS. RegGuy1, I think "we" decided to write internet and not Internet, Anybody with a link to solve the problem. Then again Google gives me Internet on the Wikipedia and next "How Trump's savvy army won the internet war", I will go with the "I" in the future or am I missing a "war" here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great to see.

        PS. RegGuy1, I think "we" decided to write internet and not Internet, Anybody with a link to solve the problem. Then again Google gives me Internet on the Wikipedia and next "How Trump's savvy army won the internet war", I will go with the "I" in the future or am I missing a "war" here.

        @RegGuy is correct here, "Internet" described a concept and is thus capitalised. Not that I consider such errors capital, but it seems to matter to some pedants :).

        BTW, happy New Year to all.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great to see.

          With respect to the @RegGuy1 comment, one of my New Year resolutions is to resolutely kill off any automated assistance with capitalisation.

          Given that I work a lot with IT and telecomms terminology I reckon I have spent more time correcting capitalisation errors made by those spectacularly dumb bots than I have benefitted from any time saving or correction of mistakes. I read photographically, so I spot such miztakez on reread anyway and having my train of thought derail because it does once again something I don't want is just not worth it..

          1. Anonymous Coward
            WTF?

            Re: Great to see.

            Totally off topic But what is reading photographically ? A/C above apparently does it

            Cheers... Ishtiaq

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Great to see.

              what is reading photographically?

              It's reading by pattern recognition rather than reading. each. individual. word. as you tend to grab whole paragraphs in one go.

              Benefits:

              - tends to be the mainstay of speed reading, people who do this tend to diagonally "sweep" a page and so pick up enough data to have an idea of the content

              - quick way to look for a specific text fragment

              - misspelled words fall outside the pattern matching and are thus overly visible as anomalies

              Disadvantages:

              - speed reading goes against understanding what you pick up because it's more about summarising

              - non-photographic errors are overlooked (words in the wrong order, or doubled, for instance) so it's not good for grammar checks

              - you finish any comic in about 15 minutes tops :)

              1. bombastic bob Silver badge
                Childcatcher

                Re: Great to see.

                also 'photographic reading' takes too much practice and has limited benefit. better to just allow your mind to run at high speed, don't audio-lize the words but let it flow phonetically into your mind faster than you could possibly vocalize. that's what I do. unless I'm trying to absorb the context better. and yeah, I miss the spelling errors, dyslexic letters, and things like that.

                /me thinks: Do you suffer from 'dylsexia'?

                [in the 1960's, some mensa candidate decided to teach children to read using look/say rather than phonics. the result was a bunch of kids who couldn't read]

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Great to see.

                  also 'photographic reading' takes too much practice and has limited benefit.

                  Not quite. I discovered this when I was about 11 (it just happened) and it has helped me ever since as I need to wade through lots of data professionally. We discovered that our son was speed reading when he was 7, which we had to stop him doing as it initially impacted reading comprehension (you need a base set of knowledge before you can comprehend and process the data at the speed it comes in). Once he got past that he's been doing it ever since, and we both do this in multiple languages.

                  Like any technique, it's useful when applied correctly and its limitations are understood.

              2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Great to see.

                "what is reading photographically?"

                "Disadvantages:" (you missed one)

                Open up a newspaper, a big one, and *instantly* realize that the huge two-page spread contains, somewhere, one of your favorite keywords (e.g. "Mercedes", "Namibia", "aardvark", etc.). Then you spend the next 45 minutes reading all sorts of boring articles trying to find the keyword that you know is in there somewhere. And you eventually do find it. And it's never worth the time or effort.

                This happens all the time. It's really annoying.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Great to see.

                So when they taught us how to speed read in Junior High it was in fact an effort to ruin our enjoyment of comic books? Bastards. Bad enough to have had to live through Nixon as President (something later generations who see video of the first moon landing will be forced to experience until the Sun goes nova). The Kool Aide cult culture and Reality Distortion Field mentality escaped the West Coast long ago, by the way, and has gone truly global. This explains not only Trump v Clinton, but also Timothy Geithner, Rodrigo Duterte and Ryan Seacrest. It does not satisfactorily explain why only 12 superheroes showed up in Civil War, however.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great to see.

      Some sense being spoken about the avalanche of bullshit where pattern recognition etc gets pimped as artificial intelligence.

      Google translate is a good example of this. When it works well (e.g. between two Romance languages) it can seem "intelligent". When it doesn't work well, it looks pretty hopeless. But it takes a human being to tell which is which.

      (It just translated from one language to English "shaggy legged pony" as "upland horse". I kind of know where it got this from, it is not totally wrong, but it takes "intelligence" to understand it.)

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Great to see.

        I've seen Google translate "Macedonia" as "fruit salad". Macedonia is the Italian word for fruit salad, but if you see it in a list of countries, then it is probably not the meaning you are looking for, just like if you see "Turkey" in a list of countries, then it probably isn't an ingredient for your Christmas dinner.

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Great to see.

        ViM mentioned Google Translate.

        The trick is to go back and forth, e.g. English -> Chinese -> English -> Chinese..., adjusting the wording of your input language (e.g. English), until the back-and-forth translations stabilize.

        The grammatical structure of your input might be slightly awkward, but if it all makes sense and is stable under back-and-forth, then it's more likely to be correct.

        I assume still not 100% perfect, but I assume much improved.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great to see.

          The trick is to go back and forth, e.g. English -> Chinese -> English -> Chinese..., adjusting the wording of your input language (e.g. English), until the back-and-forth translations stabilize. I assume still not 100% perfect, but I assume much improved.

          Maybe. But sometimes I suspect hideously and embarrassingly wrong. So wrong that you really wouldn't want to be associated with the resulting mess. Don't forget that a good translation algorithm would also do spelling correction: Here Be Dragons.

        2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: Great to see.

          The trick is to go back and forth, e.g. English -> Chinese -> English -> Chinese..., adjusting the wording of your input language (e.g. English), until the back-and-forth translations stabilize.

          The grammatical structure of your input might be slightly awkward, but if it all makes sense and is stable under back-and-forth, then it's more likely to be correct.

          Call me silly, but I was under the impression that automating that sort of back-and-forth process was more or less the reason we started to use computers in the first place..

    4. Robert E A Harvey

      Half way there

      My view is that the industry is half way there. It has cracked the "Artificial" bit. Now it needs to work on the "Intelligence" half of the definition.

    5. John Sanders
      Holmes

      Re: Great to see.

      I have been calling this AI for a long time: "Bruteforce + large database"

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great to see.

      So, if pattern recognition doesn't cut it, what exactly would "AI" look like?

      Hint: for starters, you could try defining "intelligence".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great to see.

        for starters, you could try defining "intelligence".

        Isn't that the word that is usually magically misspelled when someone wants to appear having some? :)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The AI coverage comes from a media willing itself into...

    Good point, we've seen a lot of The $FAD coverage comes from a media willing itself into a mind of a three year old child, in order to be impressed in the past.

    Also, in some cases (cough), we've seen an exaggerated amount of "news" that could be described as The $ANNOYINGFAD coverage comes from a media willing itself into shamelessly selling tickets to overly promoted events...

    Let's us all try to do better in 2017.

  4. RegGuy1

    the internet clearly isn’t working for people

    Err, how do you think offshoring works?

    People here (in the G7) may not be gaining many jobs, but you ask people in China, Thailand, India, etc whether the Internet (capital I please) is working for them. You may get a different answer.

    The Internet is benefiting the world. Look at this from a global perspective and you will see MASSIVE changes are afoot.

  5. Milton Silver badge

    Desperate hype

    It's true that there's an attempt to redefine AI so broadly that almost anything qualifies, but since genuine AI has remained stubbornly out of reach since 1960 and will continue to do so for decades yet, the industry has had to fake it to get the money.

    This is all part of the tech industry's desperate hyping of absolutely everything, mind you: when the obsession is growth and innovation - when it is perceived that to stand still is to die - then we see increasingly pointless concepts being excitedly half-baked and wildly enthused about. Who on Earth needs an internet-connected kettle?

    I'd like to think wiser heads would wrest control of the technological narrative back from saleslizards and marketurds, but they won't, all the while variously clueless or greedy investors are willing to throw money at useless phantasms and pointless gimmicks.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Desperate hype

      "genuine AI has remained stubbornly out of reach since 1960"

      10 years into the future usually covers the case.

  6. Hugh Barnard

    AI, Responsibility and Exclusion

    Great article. Worse, most of AI, isn't, it's statistical optimisation coupled with a surrender of human responsibility. Thus, the jokes about 'computer says no' are coming true.

    But, worse still, the 'predictive abilities' will probably be used to exclude and marginalise, in the same way that districts were redlined (qv) in urban USA. And worse, worse, all the 'optimisation' is sub-symbolic so there's no explanations, just judgements and a total inability to deal well with outliers, like the 2008 crash. Note that one of the big hedge funds has decided to use 'AI' to 'manage' its investments: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/22/bridgewater-associates-ai-artificial-intelligence-management

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did we miss the obvious one ?

    Access to tons of data via the big and 'Never do evil' companies for the purpose of making life better through AI has one small hidden factor. At some point in time, they will provide access to governments. While the companies write and better their algorithms, the gov gets to every damn detail about you. AI is not going to fail. Its here, its just unproductive right now for the customers.

    Anonymous, obviously.

  8. Pete 2

    AI is as AI does

    > the definition of “AI” has been stretched so that it generously encompasses pretty much anything with an algorithm

    Just like the term "hacker" was hijacked, 20 years ago.

    The thing is, it doesn't take much in the way of smarts to wizz through an Amazon warehouse and pull items off a shelf. But if your "fulfillment" job has just been replaced by a computerised shopping cart, you're going to assume it's at least as intelligent as you are - right?

    And if your coffee-pourer person suddenly becomes a metal box that you speak your order to and it squirts a drink in your general direction you could be forgiven for thinking that is "clever", too.

    So while we all know what a real hacker is. And we know what constitutes real AI, in the media's world it is anything that replaces a person - or that acts / speaks / understands like a person. Especially when many journalists will soon find that they have been replaced by a combination aggregator / sentence writer. After all, it doesn't take much for someone at The Guardian to trawl the twitter-sphere and select random tweets that more-or-less support the case they are trying to make.

    Though if they ever did more than that (or more than produce a list of synonyms for "I don't like [choose political slant]", add a load of adjectives and call it an opinion piece) they might find themselves on safer ground, career-wise.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: AI is as AI does

      "And if your coffee-pourer person suddenly becomes a metal box"

      Those functions have been interchangeable for years. The metal box is called a vending machine. You don't speak to it, you just press buttons and insert money. I don't know about the coffee but the tea option is usually execrable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AI is as AI does

        I don't know about the coffee but the tea option is usually execrable.

        Trust me, the output of the coffee option is compatible with the tea. I stubbornly stick with brewing my trusted Lavazza in a moka pot, thanks :).

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: AI is as AI does

          And yet it's possible to buy a coffee machine for you kitchen counter that can grind the beans and make a decently acceptable cup of fresh coffee. But the actual vending machines in public access areas which use anything other powdered instant "coffee" are incredibly rare. Supply and demand seem to indicate that the vast majority of people are willing to accept any old shit in exchange for low prices and convenience and have been accepting of this (or trained into this) for many, many years. People giving up privacy for new shiny is just an extension of this.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: AI is as AI does

            "Supply and demand seem to indicate that the vast majority of people are willing to accept any old shit in exchange for low prices and convenience and have been accepting of this (or trained into this) for many, many years."

            Lack of choice is the more likely explanation. If you're competing with shit then shit, preferably cheaper shit, is good enough.

          2. Chris G Silver badge

            Re: AI is as AI does

            "the vast majority of people are willing to accept any old shit "

            When I studied robotics in the mid '80s, we had a vending machine in the college that I and a couple of my course mates were disgusted with. We couldn't really tell the difference between the powdered coffee and the powdered tea, also the veggy soup (powdered) was pretty close in flavour to the beef broth (powdered), so one of the guys, an ex-Navy weapons tech, found a way into the back of the thing so that we were able to open the front panel. After swapping a few connectors around we had swapped tea for coffee and veggies for beef broth, the interesting thing was only about 1 in 5 people said anything and that was usually the same observation we had made; it was difficult to tell the difference between tea and coffee or the two soups. It didn't stop anyone buying the alleged beverages though.

            I think part of the reason for the lack of distinct flavours was the congealed mass of various powders we found inside, when the hot water poured it picked up a little of every flavour, after seeing the insides I started taking a large flask of coffee every day in preference to the risk of flavourless botulism.

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: AI is as AI does

              "after seeing the insides I started taking a large flask of coffee every day in preference to the risk of flavourless botulism."

              "New, Shiny!" Now, with LESS BOTULISM!

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

            3. John H Woods

              "flavourless botulism"

              nice ... your post reminded me of an all time favourite quote, probably not that off-topic in fact ...

              "The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject's taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject's metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject's brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea." --- Douglas Adams

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: AI is as AI does

          or you could have a bot dispense hot water, and add your own tea bag. Bigelow is pretty good here in the US. they get a measurable chunk of MY money...

          (let the bots do what they're good at, and people can do the rest)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: AI is as AI does

      "Especially when many journalists will soon find that they have been replaced by a combination aggregator / sentence writer"

      Some of the odd and/or extraneous words that peppered the article gave me the impression that at least some of the article was 'bot written :-)

      1. Michael Thibault
        Trollface

        Re: AI is as AI does

        >odd and/or extraneous words that peppered the article

        The first role for AI (Assistive Intelligence) will probably be spell-checking and grammar-checking. This world, the article, and this thread of comments, would all benefit immeasurably were that AI widely available. We're approaching that goal asymptotically, though; evidently, getting even there is a bit of a slog.

  9. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Please rearrange these words

    "they can make act software dumber"

    "web services today far are based on "

    "Year Happy New"

    1. Keith Oborn

      Re: Please rearrange these words

      Indeed.

      Not sure what'a happening at El Reg, but the standard of English and copy-editing has dropped like a stone of late.

      Oh - of course - you've fired the humans and replaced them with an AI editor. Silly of me.

      1. Paul Kinsler
        Happy

        Re: replaced them with an AI editor.

        ... but just imagine what they could do with an AO!

        [*] Artificial Orlowski

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: replaced them with an AI editor.

          Would the AO have a SF* mode?

          * Stephen Fry

        2. Geoffrey W Silver badge

          Re: replaced them with an AI editor.

          RE: "but just imagine what they could do with an AO! [*] Artificial Orlowski"

          Then we'd just need some AC's (Artificial Commenters), e.g. amanfrommars (where he?), then we could all go away and do something more productive.

          1. John H Woods

            Re: replaced them with an AI editor.

            " ... then we could all go away and do something more productive"

            seems unlikely; Many of us work in IT.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Please rearrange these words

      your sentence structure, more sense it makes, mmMMmmm

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Please rearrange these words

      It's been fixed, thanks. Our production desk has been light in the run up to Christmas and New Year's Eve due to illness, people taking time off and paternity leave. We're gradually getting back up to speed.

      Having said that, I disagree that our editing has dropped like a stone: we're doing our best against operations like the NYT and WSJ that have armies of editors and still screw up. You're welcome to email corrections@theregister.co.uk if you spot anything wrong. The volume of mail to that address is reassuringly light. When it gets a flood of messages, we know we've screwed up.

      C.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    QED

    ...a media willing itself into a mind of a three year old child, in order to be impressed.

    A bit of pattern recognition technology (ref: Great to see. @Alan Bourke) and a suitable digitised form gets the BBC a new Technology Correspondent.

    Or, have they done that already?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: QED

      If it is working for the BBC or News Media in general... can it be called "intelligence" anymore?

  11. Banksy
    Mushroom

    Trigger warning

    Andrew, you might not want to let the SJWs see the line, "Put it this way. How many times have you rung a call center recently and wished that you’d spoken to someone even more thick, or rendered by processes even more incapable of resolving the dispute, than the minimum wage of offshore staffer who you actually spoke with?". It rather suggests that all offshore workers are thick. BTW, we call it a 'centre' here in the UK.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trigger warning

      In Andrew's defence, statistically I would agree with his statement. This is probably a side effect of promoting people into level 2 support as soon as they turn out to have more braincells firing than originally assessed by HR (which is IMHO the blind leading the blind, but that's another discussion).

      I would not say that all support workers are thick, only that an annoyingly large portion of them seem to be able to give that impression. Could be process, could be braaaainz (sorry, too many Zombie movies over the holidays), but the net result is that contact centres manage to stubbornly cling on to their reputation as the worst possible, most unhelpful and user unfriendly customer interface possible.

      That does need fixing IMHO - Andrew is right in that that is a route to lose customers through that do not just leave, but also prevent others from filling up the churn hole by dissing your reputation. On the flip side, in my experience in the more value added services you can also win customers by being intelligent in solving problems, but that does require an investment that especially volume based industries simply will not make. I guess you get what you pay for..

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Trigger warning

      Replace "thick" with "ignorant" or even "untrained" and the comment is no longer inoffensive. It certainly doesn't brand all offshore workers as anything, just the ones selected (or condemned) to first-line support. Since HR are *probably* trying to steer the more clued-up (and therefore more valuable) staff into second-line support, this shouldn't surprise anyone.

      Btw, I'm sure Andrew is aware of how we spell things over here but we've been spelling them correctly for 150 years and yet Mr Webster's idiotic nationalistic experiment hasn't gone away over there. Maybe in 2017 they'll finally notice that (to pick but one obvious example) no native speaker *anywhere* *ever* has ever pronounced the two vowel sounds in "color" in the same way and so Mr Webster wasn't even right by his own standards.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trigger warning

        Isn't it a bit early in the year to restart the English vs American debate? My hangover hasn't even gone yet.

        :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trigger warning

          no becoz trump

        2. Lars Silver badge

          Re: Trigger warning

          "Isn't it a bit early in the year to restart the English vs American debate?". No it's way too late, the majority of Europeans who emigrated to the USA never stopped over in Britain to learn "proper" English. Just get over it, nobody controls a language, it evolves where ever the wind blows and this is so true when considering the history of the English language. And with no intention to hurt, too deeply, anybody, the Americans have been able to, fairly well, get rid of the inbuilt British feature of class/school/village background identification still embedded in British. Nothing of value lost there. A bit surprised though about the quality of the English teachers sent to India. But please get over it, it's not your fault in the first place. English become important in the rest of Europe only after WWII and only because of the Americans and the fact it become the language of science pushing German and French aside.

          A teacher once asked me why I like English, my response was that I like it because there is no grammar. He wasn't all that amused, a teacher after all, but with no command of any other language he had nothing to compare with. Then again try "by" at https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/by

          And, by the way, note the icon.

          1. Palpy

            Re: English shifting like --

            -- dust in the wind. Indeed. From a Shakespearean and an Old English translation site, respectively:

            Artificial intelligence is neith'r art n'r intelligent

            Artificial Intelligence ne snyttrum êac scêad−wîs.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Trigger warning

            @Lars: And, by the way, note the icon

            Where? :)

            Nah, I was just gently poking some fun. I prefer UK English, but you won't hear me yell "sacrilege!" when someone uses US vernacular - my mother tongue isn't English so I get to poke fun at both and then watch the fight from the sidelines :).

            I like English because it's a language you can really play with, proven by an almost endless stream of comedy one-liners and play on words that it easily facilitates (the key reason why legal English is so dreadful). Sadly we have allowed politicians to pollute that glory with political correctness and euphemisms, a trend we really ought to fight with everything we've got.

            If we can get back to calling a spade a spade we may even be able to get rid of a lot of the BS out there, in both languages.

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Trigger warning

        "and the comment is no longer inoffensive" - When I was growing up we just said, "makes pigshit look like water" ... there, that's fixed it.

        On the whole, I generally chose language and actions that are not "offensive" but we're going to have to make some adjustments to everyone's attitude - vis-à-vis the blatant unchallenged lies in recent US election and Brexit.

        Frankly, "offensive" isn't nice - but it exists for a reason.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trigger warning

        Let us just say, that if you run such a business, you have a large incentive to avoid hiring clued staff.

        The money is in the con, and those in the know are either with you, or dangerous.

      4. Orv Silver badge

        Re: Trigger warning

        The lack of training is entirely intentional -- first-level call center workers are expected to work off scripts and conversation trees, because it makes it easier to replace them when they quit. And they do quit, quite often, because the hours are long, the pay is low, the schedules are unpredictable, and there are no scheduled absences allowed. Have to take a few hours off to go to the doctor? Better have another job lined up before you pull the trigger on that, because you won't have one afterwards.

  12. Chris G Silver badge

    Whiter than white

    I think a lot of the problem with the increasing marketing BS about AI is down to the fact that early nerd millionaires suddenly realised that although they could create valuable IT stuff, they knew very little about how to sell it.

    Then they began to employ marketing guys who helped to make the millionaires into billionaires, that entrenched marketing into the game and once marketeers have too much power everything is sold like washing powder; every year or so there is a new incarnation of a product that is usually not that different but is sold as 'New Improved, Washes Whiter Than White And Removes All your Understains better Than Before' ( Many of these campaigns are planned for years at a time with staggered so called improvements being introduced bit by bit).

    So each year there needs to be a new buzzword or innovation in order to have a new bandwagon to help the consumerist hype along. At the moment it's AI until as Andrew says, everybody gets sick of it when they realise it's not intelligent, smart or even a benefit.

    Dragon speech to text has been going for donkey's years and is touted as smart but I know for a fact it can't process the speech from two of my friends, one is a Glaswegian and the other a Geordie, mind you I have a few difficulties processing some of the things they say.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whiter than white

      So each year there needs to be a new buzzword or innovation in order to have a new bandwagon to help the consumerist hype along. At the moment it's AI until as Andrew says, everybody gets sick of it when they realise it's not intelligent, smart or even a benefit.

      Isn't that the same routine that pulls the modern art trolley? I honestly cannot see any other reason that someone pays a lot of money for a scaled up model of the sardine tin (shark in a tank) or something I have prior art (ha!) of, an unmade bed. IMHO it rather damages the creation of actual art.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Whiter than white

        That's exactly how contemporary art works, Damien Hirst and Tracy Emmins are out of the same stable, the people that run it were interested in a friend of mine. The deal was, he had to suspend all activity at promoting himself, clear any new art with them first and basically put his entire life in their hands for two or three years and they would make him as big, he declined, being too much of his own man.

        The two above were mercilessly marketed and I know from what my brother tells me that Hirst does little to no work on his art projects which are carried out by workers. My brother lives close to him in Ilfracombe. Just another type of marketing.

        1. Steve K Silver badge

          Re: Whiter than white

          "out of the same stable"

          That will be the Augean one, I imagine....

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Whiter than white

      > Dragon speech to text has been going for donkey's years

      Hell I saw it in action in the early 90's. It was running on a large PowerPC box, was dog slow and didn't get all that much right.

      There sure has been advances since then in these "mechanistic processes", one cannot deny that.

  13. Jerome

    That's a refreshing article, thanks!

  14. Richard Tobin

    Helpful suggestions

    My electricity meter is in a dark inaccessible corner, so to read it I take a photo of it with my phone. Recently, every time I do this the phone suggests that I might prefer a photo of it that I took several months ago instead.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Helpful suggestions

      Recently, every time I do this the phone suggests that I might prefer a photo of it that I took several months ago instead.

      I can't see the problem as long as you can get your electricity provider to agree with that.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Helpful suggestions

      90 out of 100 "helpful" suggestions by any software or SmartThingy are neither helpful nor close to what I actually want.

      9 out of 100 "helpful" suggestions by any software or SmartThingy are totally neither helpful nor remotely close to what I actually want.

      And whatever is promoted as AI these days won't make things better.

  15. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "In a healthy and competitive services marketplace, bad service means lost business."

    After years of racing to the bottom I don't think we have healthy and competitive market places in anything that involves customer service. The result isn't so much lost business as churn and as long as the cost of that is less than the cost of providing decent customer service it's what we're coing to get in the future.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would you like to tell me about it?

    AI has been with us a long time - first of all we had ELIZA, a psychotherapist, then along came Clippy - who folks never really appreciated - and now it has become Herr Chatbotty.

    AI is evolving, is started off as a single celled, string substitution algorithm and now, after 30 years, it is breathing air at low tide as a matter of necessity. Once it evolves limbs life will improve ... it will be able to craw away from its shit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Would you like to tell me about it?

      DO WHAT ???

      Eliza most emphatically was NOT AI. That was the whole point of it. All it did was reflect back at you what you said to it, and POOF!!! everyone thought they were talking to a very understanding Real Person (tm). It had no learning capabilities whatsoever, which absolutely has to be one attribute of intelligence.

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Perhaps it's time to remind ourselves that "artificial" isn't the same as "synthetic" or "real". Maybe "fake" would have been a more accurate term to have used all along except that it wouldn't have attracted research money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've always preferred simulated as that's what's actually happening.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      BBC Interviewer: The sixth member of the Discovery crew was not concerned about the problems of hibernation, for he was the latest result in machine intelligence: The H.-A.-L. 9000 computer, which can reproduce, though some experts still prefer to use the word mimic, most of the activities of the human brain, and with incalculably greater speed and reliability.

      Yup, let's party like it's 1999 1968.

  18. 9Rune5

    The chatbots are already here

    A recent experience with customer support over at Sony left me with this thought: "If somebody replaced this person with an AI, would I be able to tell the difference?".

    The answers I got to my support query was "we cannot resolve this question by e-mail, please phone us" and (when I eventually picked up the phone) "sorry, we do not know how to do that".

    Perfect accent, so no foreigners involved. Or maybe the staff has already been replaced by AI. I can't tell. If they haven't been replaced by AI yet, then I would like to assert that even the weakest Artificial Intelligence beats No Intelligence. The bar has been set really low over the years.

    Meanwhile, I notice my dad's new vacuum cleaner moves around the rooms in an erratic fashion, gets stuck, etc... More AI would be a welcome addition there.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The chatbots are already here

      "If somebody replaced this person with an AI, would I be able to tell the difference?"

      Some years ago after my then ISP's previously excellent CS had been outsourced I decided I couldn't tell whether I was dealing with a bot or people. If the latter they'd failed the Turing test.

    2. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: The chatbots are already here

      Meanwhile, I notice my dad's new vacuum cleaner moves around the rooms in an erratic fashion, gets stuck, etc

      Did he definitely get a robotic one.......

  19. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Please hold, your call is important to us, the 45 minutes you're waiting aren't

    How many times have you rung a call center recently and wished that you’d spoken to someone even more thick, or rendered by processes even more incapable of resolving the dispute, than the minimum wage of offshore staffer who you actually spoke with?

    None, but many a time I've wished they'd just let me access whatever intranet site the call centre people use. It'd be a thousand times cheaper than the shiny new voice recognition thing (sorry, AI) that will be installed and ten times more useful than phoning the call centre.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Please hold, your call is important to us, the 45 minutes you're waiting aren't

      "None, but many a time I've wished they'd just let me access whatever intranet site the call centre people use."

      I doubt you'd be any better off, you'd just be reading the same script.

  20. ilmari

    "AI" is whatever would have seemed like magic last year.

    Once it actually works it stops being "AI" and gets called something else. Pattern matching algorithm, massive statistical database, whatever.

    As for support call centres, if things just worked in the first place we wouldn't need so much of them. The cheaper it gets to provide call centres, the worse the products/services will be.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      The cheaper it gets to provide call centres, the worse the products/services will be.

      I can well believe that. What a deeply unsettling thought with which to begin the year!

      Time was, companies would pride themselves on the excellence of their products and services, and it was those who excelled that were successful.

  21. jake Silver badge

    At least ...

    ... AI (in the currently used meaning of the phrase) isn't inherently dangerous. Unlike "DevOps", that other bit of FakeNews which teaches "just get it out the door, to hell with quality!".

  22. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    If we're talking about actual AI, the number of jobs lost is zero

    Because actual AI is still pretty far away, and whatever jobs the current embryonic AI has replaced has obsoleted have probably been offset by all the people working on actual AI.

    If you are talking about automation in general, then the job losses are tens of millions each year worldwide, with the real possibility that could go to hundreds of millions per year in 5-10 years.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: If we're talking about actual AI, the number of jobs lost is zero

      We have had automation since 1880s and pretty clever stuff by 1930s. You want to see old movies of almost entirely automated valve production (tubes in USA). Not computerised, but automated machines winding the grids, melting and sealing the button base etc.

      Anything high volume and repetitive was automated nearly 80 years ago. The difference is than now (apart from ASICs) that production runs can be very small. The FPGA (a mass produced IC) for runs too small for custom chip.

      3D printing isn't replacing mass production, and won't, it's making prototyping, mould making, concept work all faster and cheaper.

      The last major industry to be much affected by automation was maybe newspaper production? I'm not sure. It's small changes now. It may impact publishing if a bookshop can do in house POD of one copy for $3, but the mass market would still be volume 25 cent per copy printing.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: If we're talking about actual AI, the number of jobs lost is zero

        "It may impact publishing if a bookshop can do in house POD of one copy for $3, but the mass market would still be volume 25 cent per copy printing."

        It's not a matter of bookshops doing PoD, it's PoD displacing bookshops.

        There are also cash flow and technical/editorial issues involved in volume printing.

        My local history group produces books every year or two. Forecasting print runs is a nightmare. A large print run is cheaper per copy but requires a larger upfront cost which we have to try to extract from our parent society and the consequences of getting it wrong linger with us. We have one book which has quite a substantial stock left years after it was printed but others have sold out within weeks. When we do local history fairs we'd be able to sell quite a few copies of the latter if we still had them but what we actually have are all too often the slow sellers.

        I've been trying to persuade them to take the PDFs of the sold out books and make them available for PoD. We could get a few books run off to keep a stock for fairs and also sell online*. We could still do this at a price within shouting distance of the unit costs of our normal print run without having the society's funds tied up in stock.

        If we did the entire operation PoD we'd be free of page restrictions - the way that current production works constrains the page numbers to multiples of how many A5 pages fit onto what ever the the size of the stock the printers use which may mean omitting material to meet the constraints.

        However this is automation and vastly different to AI.

        *Yes, we could sell online now and "all" that would involve would be setting up a website. Unfortunately that's another long running discussion with the parent society. Handing over to a PoD firm would take that off our hands along with all the other aspects of order fulfilment and also provide the cost advantage of local printing vs postage for overseas sales.

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Re: If we're talking about actual AI, the number of jobs lost is zero

        I think what worries people is that now it's not just manufacturing jobs -- the supposedly "safe" service jobs are now coming up for replacement by machines. All the reassurances that we'd be fine if we didn't make anything because we could just convert to a service-sector economy are ringing hollow.

  23. Kaltern

    AI, like everything else so far this decade, is simply about making money than improving the world.

    Nothing that utilises AI works, it's as simple as that. AI doesn't even exist.

    Until the world stops looking at ways to just make more money, and start working on ways to fix/improve the world, we're just going to get more Alexa devices, touted as the Next Big Thing®.

  24. Daedalus Silver badge

    The usual suspicion...

    To paraphrase Kaiser Soze, "The greatest trick AI played was to convince people it was overhyped rubbish".

    Andrew Orlowski is the agent of the Great Intelligence, sent to make us think it hasn't already taken over.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But in 2017 it's real news ?

    http://qz.com/875491/japanese-white-collar-workers-are-already-being-replaced-by-artificial-intelligence/

    1. Brian Miller

      Re: But in 2017 it's real news ?

      It's replacing 34 workers, at a cost of $1.7 million. This would be the same as paying 34 people $50,000 per year. After installation, the machine has a maintenance contract of $128,000 per year.

      Cheap.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But in 2017 it's real news ?

        The topic is "Is AI fake news ?".

        AI has replaced the job of 35 Japanese white-collar workers.

        So we can conclude AI is not Fake News.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: But in 2017 it's real news ?

      So it reports what they intend to save. How successful it is, including customer satisfaction, remains to be seen.

      One remark in the linked article (mentioning other applications) should give them pause for thought: "incidentally, a large benefit of the software is understanding when customers get frustrated with automated systems."

  26. Mage Silver badge

    Emperor has no clothes

    Great to see a significant outlet state that the "AI" stuff, whatever it is (and in reality very little) isn't actually AI.

    Don't look behind the curtain.

    Ignore the fact that the Young Lady's Primer is relying on real time human curation and a real actress.

    We used to call them "Expert Systems" in 1980s. It wasn't AI then either.

  27. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Nine years ago, the biggest financial catastrophe since the 1930s hit the world, and precisely zero bankers went to jail for it. Many kept their perks and pensions."

    Technically off topic, but since a) Andrew brought it up and b) I'm in a somewhat confrontational mood after christmas with the relatives:

    Well, why should there?

    After all, from their (limited) perspective, they did everything right; in other words, they did exactly what it said in their job descriptions.

    Logical conclusion: we're not looking at a financial crisis or a banking crisis or anything like that - we're looking at a systemic crisis. And nobody has a viable plan to get us out of it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Well, why should there [be anyone jailed]?

      After all, from their (limited) perspective, they did everything right; in other words, they did exactly what it said in their job descriptions."

      Given that some institutions were reportedly betting against their own products there would appear to be reasonable cause for someone doing jail time.

      And doing what's in a job description doesn't make it legal. "I was only following orders" hasn't been an acceptable defence for the last 7 decades or so.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not only... but also

    You could swap "AI" with "IoT" in that article and it would still make sense.

  29. Garfunkle

    I loved the article. It reflects the sentiments that I've had myself about this for quite some time...

    Parts of the advances in the use of convolutional neural networks for pattern recognition have been impressive in their own right, I think.

    But, there's leap of enormous proportions from advanced pattern recognition to actual simulated intelligence. The two are on different planets altogether, so to speak, which is what most media articles seem to miss out on when they cover this topic.

    It's good to finally see at least one article which puts this thing right. :)

    1. Brian Miller

      Re: Not only... but also

      But IoT isn't fake news. We have had a number of exceedingly annoying DDOS attacks due to the Insecurely Developed Internet of Things (IDIoT). That's really very real, and not fake news. These things are going into all sorts of places where you don't expect them. Door bells? Children's toys? Watches with WiFi? Dog collars? Cat toys? And of course cameras and DVRs.

      Not fake. Really nasty, and usually stupid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not only... but also

        True, but it was mostly the hype and promises how IoT is the saviour of everything that's fake I was thinking of. IoT may not be fake (just a horrible nightmare), but the promise of a glowing future if only we'd just connect everything to the internet most definitely is.

  30. Amazed

    Dont worry

    There is no need to get all worked up about the future of AI. True verifiable artificial intelligence will be with us next year, as has been forecast every year since about 1963.

  31. Sidyrm

    Great article, but i think the emphasis on consumer demand is misplaced. This tech is already storming the production and logistical corner of the economy. The same could be argued for military/defense, medical, media and marketing. Commodified AI will have plenty of room to grow and mature within industry before needing to infect consumer consciousness.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "This tech is already storming the production and logistical corner of the economy."

      What tech are you talking about here? Numerical methods have been applied in these areas for decades. Is this just the usual marketing practice of gussying up the same old stuff with new names?

      1. PhilBuk

        First post I see. Hmm...marketing speak...couldn't give a shit about ordinary people ... I see a pattern here.

        Phil.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "I see a pattern here."

          Yup. They think they're so smart but we can spot them a mile off. They really should study their audience first.

  32. D Moss Esq

    And then there's the Government Digital Service ...

    ... where the true masters of AI are even now using software to classify user feedback, please see Using machine learning to classify user comments on GOV.UK.

    What does that involve?

    They look at three features of the user feedback. That helps to classify it. With 88% accuracy in the case of one class.

    And what are those three features?

    Answer, "the ratio of upper case characters to total characters, the total number of characters entered in the text box, and the ratio of exclamation marks to the total number of characters".

    Earlier, in Understanding more from user feedback, GDS said "this approach can also be used to tackle a range of text analysis challenges ... such as quickly understanding policy consultation responses".

    No more AI scepticism, please.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clickbait

    Yeah, I fell for it.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The complacency is staggering

    The article reads as if AI is equivalent to a human capable replacement.

    AI won't come with a big bang. People will realise it's here after it's happened (and maybe taken their job). The "news" is that the change is underway and accelerating. Nothing fake about that.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The complacency is staggering

      "AI won't come with a big bang. People will realise it's here after it's happened (and maybe taken their job)."

      What people realise is that when "AI" goes into production it wasn't really anything like intelligence after all. And if it's taken the jobs of the people who were there to supply real intelligence then the business will be that much worse off in the end. What more businesses need is some RI.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even Google DeepMind NHS slurp...

    Doesn't actually use AI... So agree with the article. The only thing possibly faker, was more warnings of ELE AI dangers. Meantime, the media as a whole didn't cover simple security or IoT dangers...Time to unplug from the internet of hype....

  36. Paul J Turner

    Meanwhile...

    http://qz.com/875491/japanese-white-collar-workers-are-already-being-replaced-by-artificial-intelligence/

    Japanese white-collar workers are already being replaced by artificial intelligence

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Meanwhile...

      You're repeating a post made 8 hours earlier so I'll repeat my response:

      So it reports what they intend to save. How successful it is, including customer satisfaction, remains to be seen.

      One remark in the linked article (mentioning other applications) should give them pause for thought: "incidentally, a large benefit of the software is understanding when customers get frustrated with automated systems."

  37. Frank Rysanek

    ANN-based AI needs more macro architecture

    yes... fortunately it's still mostly just hype, and some say the machines beating humans at various contests are often ugly kludges. I do fear the actual arrival of a capable human-level AI. And, it seems to me that the AI people (including the deep learning folks) are still somewhat clueless as to *how* consciousness should eventually emerge. No matter how much pattern-recognition power you throw at it, that alone won't result in a motivated, focused thinking machine. I would expect to see some cunning "macro architecture", possibly involving some cognitive loopy/feedback circuit, and generally macro-topologies faintly similar to a Von Neumannean CPU: search the huge memory for concepts, select one, keep it in temporary storage, search for further concepts, select some, keep them in temporary storage, search for more, run like that in cycles, with some general drives / motives / goals / aux inputs behind this basic loop (working as a filter in the selection process), with some generative/action outputs etc. Something along those lines, just possibly an order or two more complicated, multi-layered and whatnot. I actually feel that many of the basic concepts and functionality of this "sapient macro-architecture" could be tested / proven on a much smaller scale.

  38. herberts ghost

    Best avoid the need for a Butlerian Jihad in the first place

    Read Dune

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As MD of a company that has been in the online customer service service field for over a decade and has a Virtual Agent (chatbot, if you like) product, I agree with most of what Andrew Orlowski writes.

    It has never been helpful to associate chatbots with Artificial Intelligent. They just aren't. We never do do so and it's a key point of standard customer presentation deck to differentiate the two things. Interest in chatbots has grown due to the rise of Siri, Cortana, Alexa et al and it's lazy shorthand by journalists just to slap an "AI" label on these, just because they make a token stab at communicating conversationally.

    In fact, if we want to blame someone for instigating all of this, I suggest... Alan Turing. The famous Turing Test effectively invites people to draw an equivalence between AI and conversational interfaces. It's a false equivalence. The goal of machine learning should not be to mimic human beings. There are plenty of other computing problems to be solved without such red herrings. I suppose he did OK at some other things, despite that epic fail.

    We're concerned that the escalating hype around AI will lead to raised expectations around chatbot interfaces that can't possibly be met.

    That said, chatbots do have some benefits over more conventional interfaces. In particular, they increase engagement with a wider demographic of user by making it easy for the user to communicate their request in their own way. Everyone, from a very early age, knows how to ask a question and get an answer. We have plenty of data that suggest that users, overall, enjoy the experience.

    Try thinking of chatbots as an alternative interface that everyone can use but that not everyone needs to.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Try thinking of chatbots as an alternative interface that everyone can use but that not everyone needs to waste their time.

      FTFY

  40. Robinson

    Wonderful.

    Great piece. There's a tsunami of bollocks out there on this and other subjects. It's mostly rent-seekers and/or venture capital seekers filling empty airwaves with unmitigated rubbish. I have no idea why Elon Musk's every fart gets near the top of Reddit. It seems to me he's just a fantasist. No BS I could come out with ridiculous tech ideas every single day just like him. He's basically shaking down the government anyway. I don't think his ventures are actually profitable are they.

    I am an AI major by the way and have understood since my undergraduate days that what people call "AI" is actually just a search problem. Expert systems are just directed search algorithms (directed by Humans selecting relevant data). Neural Networks are fuzzy pattern recognition and correlation algorithms. There's no intentionality here. No consciousness. No "thing it is like to be" an "AI" but you wouldn't know that from the media.

    So yes I agree. It's all bollocks.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Wonderful.

      what people call "AI" is actually just a search problem. Expert systems are just directed search algorithms

      Back in the early '80s we had library materials delivered on microfilm and an online index which took a fairly simple search language - "not" meant "don't give me anything that contains this" etc. AFAICR with a little experience the search would deliver relevant results or report nothing found.

      Now we have massive online search engines - Google, Amazon etc - which can't be steered by the user. There's no effective way of eliminating crap occupying maybe the first several pages of "results", dropping inexplicably irrelevant items in the middle of the list or delivering any manner of junk rather than reporting no hits. Several decades of adding "smartness" have simply made search engines work worse.

    2. LionelB

      Re: Wonderful.

      @Robinson

      I think part of the problem is what you think AI is supposed to mean. When you say of current AI that 'There's no intentionality here. No consciousness. No "thing it is like to be" an "AI" ...' it's certainly hard to disagree. So your reading of "AI" seems to equate to "human-like". But does a recognisable "intelligence" need to be human-like? Does intelligence necessarily imply consciousness (whatever that is)? Or even intentionality (whatever that is)?

      I mean, I think, on the whole, that my cat is intelligent, probably has (frequently quite weird) intentions, even that she may be a thing "it is like to be" - but sometimes I think she's a dumb-ass eating and shitting automaton, programmed to exploit humans for shelter and sustenance. (Okay, I think that of some people too.) But seriously, how about a frog? A beetle? A starfish? A worm? A bacterium? (Notably, current AI doesn't come that close to the level of cognitive sophistication of any of those, even the bacterium.)

      My own suspicion is that AI will creep up (is creeping up?) on us incrementally - and that it may well turn out to be quite un-human.

  41. I am the liquor

    "what seems to be AI, is really vast knowledge, combined with a sophisticated UX"

    Could the same not be said of Natural Intelligence?

  42. John 209
    Thumb Up

    Great article, long overdue

    "Intelligence" has always been a faulty estimate of "human mental aptitude", supposedly independent of specific experience, but obviously requiring basic "normal" experience for its interrogation and measurement. When pressed to the wall, psychometricians would admit not much more than intelligence being the number which humans score on intelligence tests. With all manner of variation in definition, measurement tools, and statistical manipulations, the word and the concept it represents are so plastic that they can be made to mean just about anything. Much like "consciousness", there are about as many definitions of it as there are people writing about it, each one confident that their insight is the true insight. Pair that with human constructed, or artificial, intelligence, and one has a countably infinite number of variations ripe for exploitation by the arrogant ignoratii seeking to impress the impressionable. This is not just an amusing diversion from reality, it is a dangerous one that is absorbing more and more resources and in that process, shortchanging meaningful research and development of sorely needed advances that are really capable of benefiting humankind. This is not to say that developments in so-called AI do not have beneficial applications, only that they have little or nothing to do with intelligence as it is generally understood, much less, artificial instances of same.

  43. Herby Silver badge

    Just remember...

    Artificial Intelligence isn't

    This becomes painfully obvious when my (wonderful!!) wife tries to get a request into Siri. She fills up the request with words of noise, and never gets the right answer.

    Of course, there is the speech recognition software that wants to change the word "Poway" (a city in California) into two words "pow" and "way", then mangles the response when it can't find the city name.

    The silly voice bots that are on the other end of the phone line are another thing. Look, we all know you have options, and yes a limited number of them, just tell us. No, I don't want to speak my credit card number when the public is listening.

    And so it goes...

  44. EBG

    yes. but.

    A lot of truth from Andrew re. the hype. But I fear the point being missed is that the mega-corps have escaped the constraint of consumer preferences. It doesn't matter to them that the AI product is crap, they'll shove it down our throats anyway. Who is happy with the Fillipino call centres - but that's what we've got ?

  45. boardbonobo

    Journalists will be amongst the first against the wall when the robot overlords come. That's why they're so desperately negative about the march of AI!! ;)

    http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161230/p2a/00m/0na/005000c

  46. gnarlymarley Bronze badge

    AI jobs replaced in healthcare in 2005

    This is because at my workplace, we replace most of our jobs in 2005 with artificial intelligence. Imagine the AI reading the doctors handwriting with more accuracy than a human. But then it worked so well, we have not been replacing jobs since. I guess it is time for more updates, but too late for 2016....

  47. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Oh dear, AI taking jobs might have been 2016's 'fake news' but it's very real or 34 insurance clerks in Japan:

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/05/japanese-company-replaces-office-workers-artificial-intelligence-ai-fukoku-mutual-life-insurance

  48. GingerOne

    What is intelligence?

    But what is intelligence? People say that AI isn't real, it's just machine learning but what is human intelligence if not just learning? Our knowledge comes from what we have learned just like a computer. The more knowledge we give 'AI' the better it's decision making will be.

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