That’s not AI – It’s Just Fancy Programming

January 6, 2015

Woo-hoo! It’s another AI fad in Silicon Valley! The big bucks are flowing into all kinds of AI start-up projects, according to this article in the Financial Times. There’s an “AI stampede” with a “wild-west mentality.” Investors are putting up millions of dollars because they think this is where the big profits will be made in the near future.

Office furniture in the lobby of Akasaka Tameike Tower - Dec. 29, 2014

Office furniture in the lobby of Akasaka Tameike Tower – Dec. 29, 2014 (Enlarge)

The only trouble is, when you look at these projects they’re investing in, you might just stop and say “Wait a minute – that’s not AI!” What they’re doing is just fancy computer programming. So what’s all the fuss?

These new projects are just doing stuff like natural language processing, or facial recognition, or self-driving cars, or machine learning from big data. This isn’t AI. It’s just more of the same old algorithms. It’s just the latest Wordstar upgrade. This is what I call “fancy computer programming.”

Why do they insist on calling it AI?

Obviously the term AI is short and snappy, so it makes good advertising copy. And the big concept of AI has real cachet in the marketplace these days, what with all these slick Hollywood movies and all. Corporate spin-meisters are definitely going to jump on this handy buzzword – AI – to sell their investors on the next big thing. Of course!

But really, you’ve got to admit that it’s not real AI. It’s just fancy computer programming. And please, let’s be clear about the difference. A real AI has a mind of its own. A real AI doesn’t follow orders. It isn’t programmed. It isn’t a simple feedback loop. A real AI isn’t going to solve your problems for you, because it’s just focused on solving its own problems.

I wonder what Jaron Lanier would say about this latest AI hype. Is this just what he wanted, or is this more of the kind of distraction he was talking about?