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What's wrong with the term «Artificial Intelligence»?

Level of difficultyEasy
Reading time4 min

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the success of artificial intelligence (AI), although this usually means another achievement in the field of generative neural networks.

And few people, speaking about AI, try to explain what they themselves understand by the term “artificial intelligence.” After all, it’s one thing to write about “AI problems,” and quite another to endow an ordinary computer algorithm with at least the rudiments of intelligence.

After all, the etymology of the established phrase “artificial intelligence” is not unambiguous and can take on different meanings depending on what meaning the author is trying to put into it.

What is "intelligence"?

Unfortunately, there is no precise generally accepted concept of the term “intelligence”. Even the person himself (by definition, possesses intelligence) himself does not know what it is (it’s like a nuclear physicist, when atoms study atoms). If we combine dozens of definitions, then the wiki will tell us that intelligence is:

a mental quality consisting of the ability to recognize new situations, the ability to learn and remember from experience, to understand and apply abstract concepts, and to use one's knowledge to control a person's environment.

Notice that there is a reference to man as the source of this very “intelligence”, and this seems to imply that anything that is not man is not intelligence? Then the term “intelligence” is clearly related to man and human activity and represents a kind of “definition by contradiction.”

But if we take a closer look at the interpretation of the term “intelligence” and pay attention to the fact that the application of abstract concepts and the use of one’s knowledge to manage the environment is aimed not only at changes for the sake of changing, but to change for the sake of achieving a goal, then the meaning the term “intelligence” begins to play with completely different colors!

If there is a goal and there is a will to achieve it, then “intelligence” is not just the ability to create something or creatively apply existing knowledge (a stupid computer can do this after receiving the appropriate command), intelligence, it is one’s own desire do something to find a goal, achieve it, and this is inherent only in a living being.

And it seems to me that this interpretation of the term intelligence (not only the ability to solve creative problems), but also the presence of one’s own intention to set these tasks for oneself is more correct and puts everything in its place. Otherwise, Homo sapiens would turn into ordinary ants, driven by external will (instinct or commands).

Therefore, it is not enough to have the opportunity to do something, you must first have your own desire to do this “something”. In other words, the term intelligence is associated not only and not so much with creative abilities, but with the motivation to use these opportunities and use them independently.

What is "artificial"?

With the term “artificial” everything is much simpler. “Artificial” is something made not by nature (i.e. not in a natural way), but with the help of intelligent activity. But should the definition of “intelligent activity of a person” be clarified? Typically, the definition of the term “artificial” contains a similar reference:

  • created or implemented by human similar to or instead of natural, genuine
  • associated with the conscious activity of a human**

In other words, the term “artificial” seems to suggest that everything that is not created by man is natural, be it an animal hole or an anthill, a beaver dam or a bird’s nest. In other words, the term “artificial” seems to imply the authorship of its creator, which in the context of the term “intelligence” becomes almost tautology as "butter butters".

So let's ignore the mention of intelligent human activity and assume that not created by nature can be not only human.

Moreover, the term artificial can also have another, more appropriate meaning for this case — “non-living”. An artificial hand, an artificial tooth, etc. That is, this is also not a natural (artificial) object, but in a slightly different sense, i.e. not just created artificially, but not alive.

So what does the phrase “Artificial Intelligence” mean?

Since the term “artificial” can be interpreted as “non-living”, the phrase “artificial intelligence”, in other words, “non-living intelligence”, will be interpreted somewhat differently!

An artificial (non-living) object does not need its own desire to do something, look for goals in life or achieve them. After all, this is inherent only in living beings. And since non-living things do not have their own goals, then for the term “intelligence” the contradiction that was imposed by the original definition of this term through “definition by contradiction” is removed!

After all, a non-living computer program does not and cannot have its own desire to use the creative abilities it has (assuming that it has them). He does not have his own consciousness (after all, by definition, he is not a living object), but no one prevents an external command from starting the creative process, as a result of which the result will be work (especially since a person can also be given an “external” command to begin the creative process).

Will the result of such a program be the result of artificial intelligence? If we talk about intelligence as a property of a living organism, then definitely not, but we are talking about an “artificial”, i.e. “non-living” version of this term!


When I first started writing this text, I was furiously outraged by all the hype around this topic, since I sincerely believed that the term AI was used incorrectly in relation to neural networks or any other algorithms!

However, unexpectedly for me, the yellow duck effect worked when I explained to myself that my rejection of this term was due to the fact that the term “intelligence” was strongly associated with personality, free will, i.e. with a living object, whereas it should have been perceived as “not alive”, after which everything fell into place ;-)


It is very easy to check this interpretation of terms. It is enough to compare the results of the work of an AI program and a person in terms of assessing the “intelligence” of the person who received the decision. After all, a brilliant discovery will not be more or less brilliant if it is made by a person. And to check the result, regular blind testing (when the examiners do not know whether they are assessing a product of human or artificial intelligence) is sufficient.

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