Corny AI


Meredith Whittaker posted on Twitter that

In addition to being the best in privacy, Signal is also the best in not subjecting you to corny ‘AI’ features no one asked for or wants.

I love the phrase “corny AI.” That’s exactly what a lot of AI features are.

“Would you like help composing that tweet?”

“No than you, I can write tiny text messages by myself.”

AI is the new Clippy.

I’m sure someone will object that these are early days, and AI applications will get better. That’s probably true, but they’re corny today. Inserting gimmicky, annoying technology now on the basis that future versions might be useful is like serving someone unripe fruit.

“This banana is hard and bitter!”

“Yes, but you should enjoy it because it would have been soft and sweet a few days from now.”

Of course not all AI is corny. For example, GPS has become reliable and unobtrusive. But there’s a rush to add AI just so a company can say their product includes AI. If the AI worked really well, the company would brag about how well the software works, not what technology it uses.


One thought on “Corny AI

  1. I wonder if the corny phase is a necessary evolutionary step or if AI could transition from gimmicky and rarely used to seamless and ubiquitous and reliable without becoming corny.

    I remember when phone-based GPS was barely usable and when dedicated GPS devices were clunky and difficult to use and not at all unobtrusive. I saw my friends using it and thought “that’s so clunky and unreliable, I would rather use printed directions and hand-drawn maps”. Now I regularly use GPS on my phone and would find printed directions and hand-drawn maps almost laughably primitive.

    I’m wondering if every major technology has its awkward teenage phase that we just have to put up with or politely ignore until it becomes truly usable due to the efforts of thousands of unpaid beta testers who put up with its foibles and provide feedback to the companies building these systems.

    If I tell a 20-year-old that I once had the option to use GPS on my phone and instead relied on printed directions, they will laugh and privately wonder if I’m suffering from early-onset dementia. Probably children born in 2020 will have the same reaction when their parents tell them that AI was clumsy and awkward and when a company said that a product was AI-powered we rolled our eyes.

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