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LAS VEGAS — As artificial intelligence increasingly becomes part of our daily lives, it’s easy to see the technology as a little magical. After all, many of our devices can learn our habits and adapt to them. But human adaptability plays a bigger role in that magic than we might think.

So says Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The Hollywood A-lister — who has appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, Don Jon and, most recently, Snowden  — told the crowd his theory at the AT&T Developer Summit today.

While our devices are learning our habits, he says, we’re learning theirs.

When we unknowingly adapt our behavior to prompt certain responses, it makes the technology seem smarter than it actually is. Gordon-Levitt used Clippy, the derided animated paper clip that provided “assistance” in early iterations of Microsoft Office, as an example:

Remember that little Clippy guy would come out and be like, ‘I know what you’re trying to do. You’re writing a memo aren’t you’… Here’s the thing, you learn Clippy’s behavior and you’re like, ‘f—k I know that if I hit enter twice he’s going to come out here and tell me I’m writing a memo. You stop hitting enter twice and then, after a while, you get in the habit of not hitting enter twice and then, three years later, you forgot why you stopped hitting enter twice and you’re like, ‘my computer’s really intelligent. It knows when I want to write a memo or not.’ It wasn’t Clippy. You had to bend yourself to accommodate Clippy. I do think there’s a bit of that sleight of hand stuff going on with A.I., especially when it comes to A.I. and human expression and creativity.

Gordon-Levitt shared his hypotheses in a Q&A with AT&T exec Tony Goncalves after his keynote.

Creativity was the cornerstone of his talk. Read more on Gordon-Levitt’s ideas to foster more creativity on the web here.

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