An artificial intelligence is a self-aware computing system capable of learning and independent decision making. Creation of conscious AI requires adaptive code, a slow, expensive education, and a specialized quantum computer called a "blue box".
An AI cannot be transmitted across a communication channel or computer network. Without its blue box, an AI is no more than data files. Loading these files into a new blue box will create a new personality, as variations in the quantum hardware and runtime results create unpredictable variations.
The geth serve as a cautionary tale against the dangers of rogue AI, and in Citadel Space they are technically illegal. Advocacy groups argue, however, that an AI is a living, conscious entity deserving the same rights as organics. They argue that continued use of the term "artificial" is institutionalized racism on the part of organic life, the term "synthetic" is considered the politically correct alternative.