Paul Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of ITL
Retronyms have always intrigued me: those new formulations for long-used terms that arise because of some advance, usually related to technology. My beautiful old wristwatches are now “analog watches” because so many of you sport digital watches. A war used to be a war, but then the Cold War came along; now, when people shoot at each other, we call that a “hot war.” (A friend who consults with the military recently used the euphemism, “sending kinetic energy downrange,” which I love but somehow doubt will replace “hot war.”) A century ago, cars just had transmissions; now, those that require the driver to change gears are “manual transmissions.” And so on.
I’m now starting to see a lot of uses of a sort of retronym that I never expected: “human.”
The actual retronym is “human employee,” which is increasingly being used to distinguish those of us with flesh and blood from the artificial intelligences that are being employed in business settings. But the term almost always gets shortened to “human,” which makes the implication even starker: We’re at an interesting spot in our deployment of AI, maybe even at a tipping point…. continue reading >