Intelligence, until the advent of artificial intelligence, has always been an attribute describing a human being, or a living creature. In recent years I have observed that adjective ‘intelligent’ has been applied to a number of inanimate objects. For example, I happen to use No 7 intelligent colour foundation, i.e. make up. When shopping for my grandchildren, I notice there are intelligent magnetic building blocks or tiles available. I have discovered there is an intelligent battery charger available. All misnomers, as far as I’m concerned.
I realise the use of these ridiculous names is a marketing ploy, so that by association, the buyer is to be credited with intelligence because he has chosen that product or perhaps it might be the vendor or maker who is smart because he has produced it? As far as I’m concerned there is no way a thing or object without a brain can be ‘intelligent.’ Animals can be intelligent so I’ll accept an intelligent dog – of course – but intelligent dog toys stretch my credulity.
You can of course have an intelligent hairdresser, but not ‘intelligent haircare’, which I have seen promoted. You can have an intelligent investor (advertised) but not intelligent fitness (also advertised). The misuse of the word ‘intelligent’ in the above examples seems to me to show at worst a remarkable lack of intelligence and accuracy, or at best a canny use of the transferred epithet to bolster sales of a product.
According to the dictionary, for a person to be intelligent they show good intellect, have quick understanding, and are informed. Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines (computers), as opposed to natural intelligence displayed by animals including humans.
Today, when trying to choose paint for our windows, I came across ‘intelligent paint’ and ‘intelligent colour’ – both of which descriptions made me wince. They ought to be unintelligible – but that is not the case! The terminology used cleverly deludes us into thinking this paint and these colours are of our better quality than unintelligent paint and colours. So the marketing works, and intelligent humans are fooled. Such is the power of words.
I should know. I’m a writer.