7 A.I. Terms Every Designer Should Know

As artificial intelligence grows more prevalent, designers need to be able to talk the talk

Esther Blankenship
Published in
5 min readNov 25, 2019


Photo: metamorworks/Getty Images

AsAs artificial intelligence creeps into ever more aspects of the things we design, user experience professionals should be able to confidently follow and discuss the big tech advances of our times. These are not just dry terms for developers; they are at the core of important debates about the future of humanity.

Although most of you probably know by now what A.I. is, if pressed to define it, what would you say? That’s harder. And you’ve heard the term “algorithm,” but what is it, really? And could you explain what the difference is between narrow and general A.I.? Or how machine learning, neural networks, and deep learning are related? And what on Earth is this thing called “the Singularity”?

An inquisitive friend of mine asked me these questions and, embarrassingly, I was pretty stumped for good, concise answers. So I did my homework and created an A.I. cheat sheet that I’m sharing with you today. These are the super short definitions I came up with for the most important terms. After each, I suggest further reading.

Before we get to the fancier A.I.-related terms, let’s start off by defining plain old “intelligence” and then the more recent, human invention, “artificial intelligence.”

Intelligence: The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills to achieve a goal

Defining intelligence has long divided the scientific community, and controversies still rage over how to define and measure it. Most neural scientists, however, seem to agree that intelligence is an umbrella term that covers a variety of related mental abilities, such as problem-solving, mental speed, general knowledge, creativity, abstract thinking, and memory.

For more, check out this pdf on vetta.org: “A Collection of Definitions of Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (A.I.): Intelligence of a non-biological entity

Just as the definition of human intelligence is elusive and controversial, it is also hard to define what intelligence would mean in the context of a machine. The best definition I found is from Emerj: “Artificial…