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Senior Momentum - March 2016 - Zoë Tummillo


AI, Robotics and Inter-Disciplinary Learning...Huh?

by Zoe Tummillo

Do you sometimes wonder what in blazes is going on? Do the contemporary pundits really believe that the above “developmental concepts” are something new? 

I can change my outfit with the seasons, my mood or for some special occasion... but it’s still me under the cotton or sequins. Artificial intelligence is my personal favorite of the many delightful snow jobs being discussed in the hushed tones reserved for awesome revelations by folks believing they have found something breathtaking and new! (Remember “emotional intelligence?” It also had a big 15 minutes’ puff of excitement a few years back. ) 

Under its skin, that concept of the hour seems to me to be just another oxymoron! My 4” spine, Webster’s Unabridged International Dictionary defines oxymoron as: “...pointedly foolish; dull foolish; a combination for epigrammatic effect of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness, laborious idleness).”

Robotics I can get behind. The idea of a little round thing humming along, gently bumping itself off walls and furnishings and doing the vacuuming for me is definitely appealing! At least robotics is innovation; it moves something forward. It doesn’t insult our intelligence (artificial or otherwise). Surely it takes intelligence to develop and evolve something worthwhile; why would one of those anythings, therefore, be artificial?

If you think this is going around in circles, the lofty presenters were soon in a (intellectual) vortex, pounded with questions about logic. Why clothe your concept in a play on words? Authentic intelligence is certainly more desirable than an artificial anything – right? And why would “authentic” desire “artificiality” ...someone asked... unless you mean a machine/device/app that would think and deduce and infer like the human brain? But it wouldn’t be artificial then, because it would be conceived, programmed and manipulated by a real intelligence... right? It was really fun to watch!

Inter-Disciplinary Learning? You mean like using flashcards and the blackboard, and books and the teacher and the parents and the library and the community and the radio and the TV etc. etc. etc? Inter-disciplinary learning has been around for centuries! (OOPS! Those tools are almost obsolete; forgot that.) College is now available over the Internet, rumor has it the entire world is “authentically” available over your smart phone, libraries are passé, and certainly I am a dinosaur with my 4” Webster. What could possibly be the advantage in the thoughtful, archaic perusal of tomes when instant gratification is just a click away? And, who needs thorough anyway?

Some of my best exploration takes place with the 25 to 35 crowd, so I ran some of my stuff by a few of those immersed in the smartphone realm of communication and information. It was both satisfying and enlightening to hear some of the newer interpretations of old tried and true concepts. My favorite was; “What do you mean ‘artificial’ intelligence! You mean machines that can think? But those machines don’t program themselves! We implant the intelligence! It’s not ‘artificial!’” (Don’t you love it?)

Which all took me right back to my almost, most favorite subject: Semantics! And, back to my favorite professor, S. I. Hayakawa. That amazing gentleman would have a picnic with today’s terminology and how it tends to murder some channels of logic, common sense, reason and authenticity

It is really fun to engage today’s young communicators in discussions about concepts like artificial intelligence, robotics and interdisciplinary learning. How those concepts have evolved from early learning paradigms, inferred meanings and pragmatic tools is both intriguing and interesting! The trick for the older generations, in my humble opinion, is to get on board with comprehending how today’s logical paths operate; they are different. Semantics have evolved right along with everything else. Dr. Hayakawa would be right on the exciting cutting edge; and with his enigmatic smile, I can picture him muttering: “OK. ‘Artificial intelligence.’ Let’s take a good look at that!

(Maybe all this is really about Artificial Authenticity.)

Zoë Tummillo is a Business & Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Commercial Writer, dba COMMUNICATION CONCEPTS, in private practice since 1974. In addition to Commercial work, she writes “Senior Momentum: A Series of Situations”; “Pieces of My Path”©, essay memoirs of growing up first generation Italian American; and Senior Momentum: Front And Center!©. To contact her: email: