But first, those words we keep using….
Before we go further, let’s take the briefest moment to define a couple of terms used liberally ahead.
Automation is relatively simple to define. It’s the use of technology to repeat a function over time with minimum human intervention. This process can be physical or digital in nature.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a little more complex. It’s a broad term encompassing everything from algorithms that process data (like telling us what music we might enjoy based on existing preferences), to machine learning capable of expanding its knowledge over time (learning to play chess), all the way (theoretically) to a conscious entity capable of functioning and reasoning autonomously.
Contrary to science fiction, AI isn’t about bringing Frankenstein’s monster to life. For the most part, it’s for the far more mundane purpose of executing very specific tasks within set parameters, rather than creating a single all-knowing, all-feeling artificial entity. Most functions don’t require (or benefit from) consciousness.
At present, most AIs share more in common with calculators than humans. They excel at process and logic. But creativity, empathy, intuition, judgement, critical thinking, meaning-making, storytelling and communication — qualities humans take for granted — are incredibly complex (though not impossible theoretically) to replicate.