AI: Batsuits Not Bruce Wayne

David Potenziani
3 min readFeb 14, 2024
Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

When I was a kid, I faced the classic question of who I admired more: Superman or Batman?

I leaned hard towards Superman since, while actually not human, he did seem to have our human powers expanded and enhanced. He had tremendous strength. He could fly without technology. X-Ray vision was the perception of radiation beyond our visible spetrum. But what really set him up as “super” was his morality and humility. He refrained from using his powers to dominate others and focused on bringing criminals to justice.

Batman, on the other hand, was also an agent of justice but he used technology to enhance his comparatively feeble human powers. His suit with its famous utility belt held a set of wondrous tools that enflamed my 10-year-old mind. But underneath the mask and cape, he was just a man.

Superman got my vote.

Until I grew up.

Maturity offered a reexamination of my original thinking. I was, honestly, influenced by much of popular culture that offered an evolving picture of human angst that was paradoxically shared by our local citizen of Krypton. Even Batman had an emotionally convoluted backstory of murdered parents and a thirst to bring bad buys to justice. But these popular musings in films only served for me to return to the original question.

Who was more admirable? An alien “super” being who had greatness thrust upon him as his father sent him to Earth to save his life from a supernova? Or an ordinary human being who overcame grief and loss to decide that he should fight wrongs and crime?

Granted, Bruce Wayne did not become Batman through pluck alone. Fabulous wealth was a prerequisite for that amazing car, advanced body armor, and the aforementioned utility belt. But he was mortal and vulnerable. He could be hurt with the ordinary tools wielded by bad guys. Bullets did not necessarily bounce off his chest.

As I matured, I began to see the inner strength of both characters but came to admire Batman more. Inside, he was still Bruce Wayne. Yes, a fighter of wrong and crime, but also wounded by his past and determined to do something to address what caused that pain.

Lest the reader be misled, both superheroes only addressed the symptoms of our physical human misery and rarely its causes. But that is an essay for another day.

As a kid, however, I focused on Superman’s strength and Batman’s suit and its utility belt. These seemed to be their distinguishing characteristics that put them in a special place.

We continue to do the same when we consider artificial intelligence. We are dazzled by its ability to sound human. Its ability to substitute computation for thinking, and even seem to head towards sentience. But we are only seeing the veneer. ChatGPT seems like it's thinking because it puts together words in sentences coherent to us. We have to remember that it, and all other large language models, are doing just a little bit more than parrot our previous writings back at us. They can construct a sonnet in rhyme and meter, but not its poetry and feeling.

So, let’s take a collective breath and slow down. AI is a tool, only a tool. It will do things because we direct it to do so. Giving it more meaning is like admiring Batman’s suit but not Bruce Wayne.



David Potenziani

Historian, informatician, novelist, and grandfather. Part-time curmugdeon.