One of the reasons why we are so infatuated with the idea of the intelligent machine is so that we can have machines do the work and bidding of people without the downsides of having humans do that work. Machines can work tirelessly. They don’t have emotions. They lack the motivations, desires, and character flaws of humans. They can be easily replicated and repaired. It’s no wonder that machines are seen by both people and businesses as the “ultimate” replacement of the human worker, freeing up us humans to do other things.
It’s understandable then, that people like to connect the idea of intelligence to automation, because automation is also about the idea of replacing human labor with machines. However, they’re completely separate ideas. Automation is all about repetitive tasks and focusing on efficiency over variability. But intelligence is not about those things. Intelligence is about responding to the environment and all the variables and changes that happen. When we think someone is intelligent, we don’t remark how wonderful their automation is. We ascribe all the positive traits of intelligence to being able to “think things through” and be “creative” about addressing a problem or having “intuition” or “insight” into how something should be done. We don’t ascribe any of these concepts — intuition, insight, creativity, thoughtfulness, and adaptation — to the ideas of automation. Automation is not intelligent. It’s dumb.
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