A tale of three AIs, chapter 1: artificial intelligence (AI) – is it more than a buzzword?
We’ve all fallen victim to flashy marketing that makes big promises but doesn’t deliver on them (and often doesn’t provide any results at all). Remember the Shake Weight that everyone thought would give them toned arms with minimal effort? That just made you look ridiculous. Or the blanket that promised to save your marriage? That didn’t work, and now it’s collecting dust in your linen closet. Or what about the electric grill that claimed to drain all the fat from your foods? Your parents let you take it to your college dorm, where you never cleaned it after using it exactly one time to make a grilled cheese (and it didn’t stop you from gaining the “freshman 15” either).
These days, artificial intelligence has the same kind of buzz surrounding it. Everyone likes to claim their product has AI to be trendy, sound cooler, or come off as more advanced…but are they? More often than not, the answer is no.
An article on Inc.com explains that when companies portray their products as having AI (even when they don’t), it’s an issue for buyers and brands alike. It’s hard to blame companies for highlighting that they use AI to make their products sound better. The problem, though, is that it makes it difficult for consumers to identify what’s truly intelligent and what’s simply marketing spin.
So, is it AI or not?
There are so many products labeled as AI out there, but the truth is, the only AI they really have is in their names. When something is labeled as having artificial intelligence, people assume it must be more advanced than it actually is. According to Spend Matters, this is simply because it sounds highly technical. But names can often be misleading (sorry to break it to you, but SmartWater won’t literally make you smart).
That’s why it’s also important to understand the terms that are often grouped with artificial intelligence – such as machine learning, automation, robots, and RPA. That way, you can understand which can actually provide you with real results versus those that just have a fancy-sounding name.
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Spend Matters provides a brief definition of machine learning, explaining that it “uses statistical analysis to ‘learn’ from reams of data and teach a software application, using these lessons to make highly accurate predictions about specific types of data.” What robots and RPA do are imitations of how a human would carry out a specific task within a process. According to Spend Matters, RPA “does not attempt to read, interpret, or think. Instead, it simply replicates whatever actions a user records in the application.” These can all factor into artificial intelligence, but advanced AI goes further than that.
Another term that is often confused with AI is automation. But as VentureBeat explains, automation only “follows pre-programmed rules,” while artificial intelligence “is designed to simulate human thinking.” Automated systems can only follow orders, but AI goes beyond that: finding patterns, learning from experience, and choosing the appropriate response for a specific situation – just like a human would do. To determine if something is truly AI or not, think about how much human intervention is involved for the AI technology to function.
On the surface, machine learning, robots, automation, and RPA may sound AI-like, but they all still require human intervention and therefore aren’t able to reach the same level that advanced AI can. That’s why Inc.com warns: “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?”
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As technology advances, we’ll see AI becoming a bigger part of our lives. Until then, we need to take buzzwords like this with a grain of salt. Despite how flashy a product seems, make sure you take a step back and think about whether it actually has the AI it claims, or if it only sounds like it does.
Be sure to check out the rest of this series, in which we’ll explore the problems with the current state of AI and how it has the potential to solve real problems.