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6 nerd words everybody gets wrong

Mike Elgan | Dec. 1, 2015
Words matter. If you're going to talk tech, make sure you do it right.

"Normals" is a vague and condescending euphemism that should be avoided.


You've heard the word "drone" used to refer to any remote-controlled thing that flies -- from large military aircraft that can drop bombs to tiny consumer toys that can be controlled with a smartphone app.

Some of these aircraft use artificial intelligence to pilot themselves, and others do not.

But "drone" is accurately applied only to any unmanned aircraft that can fly by itself and navigate using artificial intelligence. It's a reference to automation, not flying or remote control.

Even some of the biggest and most expensive military "drones" aren't drones at all, but remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

None of the consumer devices are "drones." (Sure, give it a year or two and A.I.-controlled drones will be sold to consumers. But for now, consumer drones don't exist.)

A better term for consumer remote-controlled devices is "quadcopter," which simply refers to the number of propellers.

The use of "drone" to refer to consumer quadcopters is incorrect.

Words matter and technology is global. If we want to be clear and understand each other, and also accurately represent reality, it's a good idea to be precise in how we talk tech.


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