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How technological shift has changed our language


Did you know in the world of software, the terms "application" and "system" were often used interchangeably? While both refer to types of software, they have distinct characteristics. I have been going back to the fundamentals to learn more about systems architecture and wanted to relay some of my learnings and thoughts.

Systems are a class of software that automate business processes, while applications are designed for human use. However, with the rise of handheld devices and smartphones, the term "app" or "application" has become more commonly used than "system". This reflected the shift towards human-centered applications that run on handhelds and smart phones in the last decade.

As we enter the era of more consumer AI products, it's natural to wonder how our terminology for software will continue to evolve. The language we use to describe tech or any industry nuances is a reflection of our cultural values and technological advancements, and as AI continues to play a more significant role in our lives, new words and terms are likely to emerge. Linguists and social scientists have historically used data to measure shifts in society, languages, and culture, and it will be fascinating to see how these changes manifest in the realm of software.

For example, the term "assistant" is already commonly used to describe agents like Siri and Alexa that help people manage their daily lives. Other terms, such as "collaborator" or "partner," may emerge to describe AI systems that work alongside humans in more complex tasks. For example, an intelligent system that can analyze data, make predictions, and take action based on those predictions may not neatly fit into either category. Instead, it may be seen as a new type of software altogether, requiring its own terminology and conceptual framework.

As with any major technological shift, it is likely that the language we use to describe software and its capabilities will evolve over time. While it is difficult to predict exactly how this evolution will unfold, we can be certain that new words and concepts will emerge to reflect the changing landscape of human-AI interactions.