At a technology trade show I stopped by a booth that showcased the fact that their product is "AI-enabled." I asked the sales rep what that meant. He lowered his voice and said, "It's not really AI...we just use the term to sound cooler." 

Sadly, that's probably not the only company to use the term AI so that their product or service will seem on-trend. In the early days of the sustainability movement, some businesses slapped the terms "green" to appeal to consumers concerned about sustainability and health. Has AI become the new green?

This year was declared the year of AI and although some professionals believe that every business problem has an AI solution, the reality is that true AI is still in its early stages. Although development will happen quickly, buyers need to ask the right questions before they invest.

Paul Roetzer, founder of the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute believes that AI-washing is "a definite issue, for both the brands and the buyers. You can't blame the brands for wanting to ride the AI wave and highlight that they are using some AI, but it makes it harder for the buyers to filter through the noise and find the truly intelligent technology."

How do you protect yourself from Fake AI?

"The best approach for buyers is to get educated," says Roetzer.  Here are some basic definitions from Josh Cutler, CTO of Aftercode:

  • Narrow AI:  Non-sentient artificial intelligence that is focused on one narrow task.  Also known as weak AI
  • General AI: Also referred to as "strong AI", is the ability of a machine to perform "general intelligent action" and capable of experiencing consciousness.

Based on those definitions, very little "true AI" exists in today's business world. Humans are still playing a significant role in teaching machines how to think, act, and gather data. 

Who will the leaders be in the AI evolution/revolution? Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple have joined IBM as leaders in the space, which is estimated to grow to almost $60 billion in revenue by 2025. 

"True" AI will be a reality. That's a fact. But before you spend a dollar (or a bitcoin) on an AI-powered system, apply just the right amount of human cynicism and ask yourself - and the vendor - if the "Artificial" in the AI refers to the functionality or the sales pitch?

Published on: Nov 15, 2017