Discussing Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the subject of many news reports this year. It has also been part of many everyday discussions.

It will likely continue to be a popular subject of discussion in the coming years, too.

So, how might one talk about artificial intelligence? What kinds of terms and structures should you use?

In this week’s Everyday Grammar, we will explore a point of connection between grammar and technology. You will learn how to ask questions about artificial intelligence. You will also learn some ways to express your own opinions about AI.

Let’s start with questions. Questions generally come in two forms – yes or no questions and open-ended questions.

Yes or no questions ask for a yes or a no answer.

Open-ended questions are seeking more information than a simple yes or no answer.

Open-ended questions are the secret to good discussions. By asking open-ended questions, you can learn much more about the thoughts and opinions of others.

We often use question words to ask open-ended questions. When we discuss artificial intelligence, a few question words will be especially useful. These are what, why, and how.

Consider these three questions:

What do you think of artificial intelligence?

Why are people concerned about artificial intelligence?

How will artificial intelligence affect our lives?

Note that there is a general structure to all of these questions. They begin with the question word. Then, they involve some kind of helping verb: do, be, or will. Then we have the subject of the sentence, the main verb, and the rest of the sentence. If we reduced these ideas into a kind of math formula, you might say the following:

Open-ended question = A question word + a helping verb + a subject + a main verb + the rest of the sentence

We can ask open-ended questions in different tenses. For example, we could ask about the past, as in:

How did you first hear about artificial intelligence?

In this case, we changed the helping verb do into its past form, did.

We can also ask about the future, as in:

How will artificial intelligence change our lives over the next 20 years?

We have explored questions. But how can we answer such questions?

One way to think of your answer is in terms of good, bad, and mixed. You might use terms such as positive, negative, optimistic or pessimistic.

What do you think of artificial intelligence?

You might have a positive opinion and say something like this:

I am optimistic about artificial intelligence.

You might have a negative opinion and say something like this:

I am pessimistic about artificial intelligence.

If your views go both ways, you might say:

I have mixed opinions about artificial intelligence.

Of course, after all of these answers, you should be prepared to give more details. We often use the word “because” followed by a clause – a subject and predicate group.

I am optimistic about artificial intelligence because people will be more productive with it.

I am pessimistic about artificial intelligence because I think it will hurt the labor force in a powerful way.

In today’s lesson, we explored a few ways to ask questions and give answers about artificial intelligence. Such discussions could take place in an everyday discussion or as part of an English test.

Let’s end today with a homework assignment. Write an answer to the question you heard earlier in the report:

How will artificial intelligence change our lives over the next 20 years?

Before writing your answer, be sure to consider what views you have. Ask yourself if you see the future in a positive way, a negative way, or in a mixed way. Send us your answers at [email protected]

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

formula –n. a fact or rule that is expressed in letters, numbers and symbols

optimistic – adj. expecting good things to happen

pessimistic – adj. expecting bad things to happen

predicate – n. the part of a sentence that expresses what is said about the subject