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AI is a Thing

Robots staring at a brain map.

By James Patterson

In July, Vice President Kamala Harris painfully explained that AI was “first off, two letters.” She went on to say that Artificial Intelligence was “kind of a fancy thing.”

AI can also be a kind of annoying thing. For example, the paper towel dispenser in the men’s room of my office building will dispense towels when one places their hands underneath its sensors. At times, it dispenses towels on its own without anyone’s hands near it. As I said, AI is kind of an annoying thing.

While I was sitting at a restaurant bar enjoying a sandwich, the cashier on the other side of the bar cashed out another diner. The cash register was one of those that churned out long receipts. As I was dining, the absent-minded hi-tech cash register churned out a very long receipt. It was a receipt long enough to spill onto my plate and cover my sandwich.

All was not lost. AI was not a kind of hungry thing. It did not eat my sandwich.

When the cashier noticed my alarm at the overlong receipt on my food, she gladly ordered me a replacement sandwich. I played defense with my new sandwich. I moved it away from the absent-minded hi-tech cash register to avoid another overlong sales receipt. AI is a kind of challenging thing.

There are times, I find AI to be a useful thing. I enjoy the artificial intelligence in my iPhone, especially when it changes time with the seasons. I am not talking about music. When my iPhone automatically adjusts for the annual season changes, I am most happy that I don’t have to manually adjust one of my older generation timepieces.

AI is a useful thing as a security device. My outdoor lights automatically turn on when a cat, a dog, or a potential burglar walks into my backyard. To date, the sudden light has scared off potential burglars. Cats and dogs are another matter. They aren’t scared of sudden light. However, they are scared at the sight of me in my night robe.

AI is a useful thing when a mechanism in an elevator door retracts when it senses a person is in the way. This very useful form of AI has saved me from being hit by heavy elevator doors. We may have all gotten accustomed to sensor devices in elevator doors. At times, these sensors fail. To avoid an injury, you might use an umbrella or briefcase to stop the door from closing.

In the classic film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the computer HAL was a useful thing to the spaceship’s crew. When it malfunctioned, it became a kind of dangerous thing. In the film, the good man prevailed over the wicked HAL.

Whether AI is “a kind of fancy thing,” “a kind of a challenging thing,” “a kind of annoying thing,” or “a kind of useful thing,” AI is here to stay at offices, restaurants, and homes.

In the wrong hands, or by diabolical design, AI could be “a kind of a dangerous thing.” For this reason, lawmakers in Washington are busy at work to make AI a kind of bureaucratic thing, a frightening thought.

James Patterson is a writer and speaker based in the Washington, D.C. area.

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