Glossary: Controlling AI Systems

Understanding the words used to describe various aspects of making AI do what you need it to

Cassie Kozyrkov
8 min readMay 19, 2024


AI image created by the author

There has been a lot of recent buzz about AI Control Systems, followed by the inevitable slew of semantic mudslinging (thanks, internet). To help demystify the space, I did my best to collect the various terms and come up with short explainers for each one, and making an attempt to break them down into their components:

Warm colors: Not software
Cold colors: Software

Yellow: Education
Orange: Research
Red: Policies/Rules

Steel blue: Product-side (built-in features within products)
Ice blue: User-side (tools to improve the user’s abilities)

Since I couldn’t possibly be an expert in all 57 of these, I’m bound to get some of it slightly off. Not too much, hopefully — I’ve done my best to fact check. I’m only human, though, so please don’t hurl tomatoes at me if I’ve gotten a nuance wrong. Just give me a gentle nudge in the comments. I’ve also got an alphabetized list for you if that’s of interest as text below.



Cassie Kozyrkov

Chief Decision Scientist, Google. ❤️ Stats, ML/AI, data, puns, art, theatre, decision science. All views are my own.