Computers already do many things better than people can. They include: facial recognition; identifying patterns in seemingly random data and activities; and instant recovery of data that may seem like recovery of human memory but is not. Computers have also defeated the best human chess players.

The question is: does any of this represent artificial intelligence? Drop the “artificial;” is any of it actually intelligent? A lot of people call it that, and what is described as “the AI community” is growing and increasingly talkative about its achievements – but are they the achievements of intelligent devices or merely well programmed ones?

One of the claims for AI is its ability in language translation. It’s difficult to make that claim stand up, because – while it is true that a well programmed computer with a large vocabulary can translate very quickly – the quality of the translated text never achieves the level produced by a human proficient in both the language being translated from and the language being translated to. Foreign novels, for example, are unreadable in machine translated form, while only a fool would enter into a commercial transaction with someone in another country on the basis purely of a machine-translated contract or proposal.

Soft Suits have been developed to help soldiers carry heavy loads over long distances and have subsequently been adapted to enable the elderly to walk without the assistance of a walking frame. The suit provides a jolt of energy where it is needed, when it is needed. The developers have described this as artificial intelligence. It is not. It is automated, and it is very clever, but cleverness and intelligence are different things.

Another page on this website addresses the question of driverless cars and points out that calling a machine that has been equipped with sensors and provided with software to tell it what to do intelligent is stretching a point. The educational aids available at present, though described as providing AI-enhanced education, are not exhibiting true intelligence.

It is possible that truly intelligent devices may appear. They are not here yet.