An artificial intelligence is a self-aware computing system capable of learning and independent decision making. Creation of a 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.