Two meanings of 'AI'

Posted July 2020

What do people mean by “artificial intelligence”?

When I say “AI” I mean one of two things. First it could be the experience of a product feeling intelligent. Or I could refer to what it looks like technically: that the system uses machine learning, deep neural networks, code where you optimise parameters against a dataset.

The not explicitly agreed but colloquial usage of the term “AI” seems to be the first one: the system seems intelligent_ to the person observing or using the product. This feeling changes as technology gets better, and obviously depends on who you ask.

A couple of if-clauses and a lookup from a database could be called AI. In the 1960’s there was an extremely simplistic chatbot called ELIZA, which you could probably implement in less than 100 lines of Python. The users that were asked to test it could not believe they were not interacting with a human. So a product feeling intelligent is only weakly related to the technology behind it.

Taivo Pungas

Taivo Pungas is Automation Lead at Veriff, where he leads AI product teams.

Previously, he built self-driving robot software at Starship, worked on software and data science at several startups, and has been writing for years.