November 3, 2021

Guide to Help Understand Key Terms in AI and Emerging Technologies

Over the past few months, I have engaged in numerous conversations with people about artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies such as blockchain, connected vehicles, virtual reality. In a more recent conversation, it occurred to me that some individuals are not entirely versed to the terms associated with these technologies. Helpfully, the Brooking Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, published a glossary of key terms in AI and emerging technologies. This post focuses on a few terms I was unfamiliar prior to reading Brookings' glossary.

Metaverse is a term most people are hearing for the first time as a result of Facebook changing its corporate name to Meta. As Brookings explains, metaverse "is a science fiction concept imagined by novelist Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book, Snow Crash that envisions a virtual world which combines the internet, virtualization, augmented reality, digitization, and virtual reality. People can exist in a physical or digital world and cross seamlessly between those levels or they can create their own reality based on their particular imagination."

While quantum computing has been seen in technical publications for decades, the term is appearing more regularly in the mainstream media. According to Brookings, "Quantum computers have tremendous capacity for storing and processing information because their storage processes are not in the form of a zero or one, as is the case with traditional computers. Rather, they take advantage of superposition—the fact that electrons can be in two places at once—to create 'quantum bits' that store multiple values in each point. That capability dramatically increases storage capacity and decreases processing times, thereby improving the scope of data, textual, or image analysis."

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Those who have business or personal dealings in China may be familiar the term, social credit systems (This article by The Economist explains how social credit systems are being utilized in China.) In defining social credit systems, Brookings says "The ubiquity of people’s online activities enables technology that tracks behavior and rates people based on their online actions. As an illustration, some organizations have piloted systems that compile data on social media activities, personal infractions, and behaviors such as paying taxes on time. They use that data to rate people for creditworthiness, travel, school enrollment, and government positions. These systems are problematic from an ethical standpoint because they lack transparency and can be used to penalize political opponents."

Surprisingly, extended reality (XR) is a term not listed in Brooking's glossary. The Franklin Institute defines XR as "an umbrella term that includes technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR), either to provide more information about our actual environment to enhance our senses, or else to create completely artificial experiences."

Do you find Brookings' glossary useful? Which terms would you add?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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