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Many Firms Are 'AI Washing' Claims of Intelligent Products ( 93

Software companies are seeking to exploit the current artificial intelligence craze by "AI washing" -- exaggerating the role of AI in their products, according to a new report by Gartner, the research firm. From a report: Gartner, which tracks commercial manias through a tool it calls the Hype Cycle, compares what is currently going on in AI with a prior surge in environmental over-statement -- "greenwashing, in which companies exaggerate the environmental-friendliness of their products or practices for business benefit." The bottom line: More than 1,000 vendors say their products employ AI, but many are "applying the AI label a little too indiscriminately," Gartner says in its report. Kriti Sharma, who runs the AI team at Sage, tells Axios that a lot of companies are seeking to solve problems using AI that would be better done by humans. And what is often called AI "is just automation that you are doing," she said.
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Many Firms Are 'AI Washing' Claims of Intelligent Products

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @02:03PM (#54840771)

    But the Turing test cuts both ways. You can't tell if a machine has gotten smarter or if you've just lowered your own standards of intelligence to such a degree that the machine seems smart. If you can have a conversation with a simulated person presented by an AI program, can you tell how far you've let your sense of personhood degrade in order to make the illusion work for you?

    People degrade themselves in order to make machines seem smart all the time. Before the crash, bankers believed in supposedly intelligent algorithms that could calculate credit risks before making bad loans. We ask teachers to teach to standardized tests so a student will look good to an algorithm. We have repeatedly demonstrated our species' bottomless ability to lower our standards to make information technology look good. Every instance of intelligence in a machine is ambiguous.

    The same ambiguity that motivated dubious academic AI projects in the past has been repackaged as mass culture today. Did that search engine really know what you want, or are you playing along, lowering your standards to make it seem clever? While it's to be expected that the human perspective will be changed by encounters with profound new technologies, the exercise of treating machine intelligence as real requires people to reduce their mooring to reality.

    • If you can have a conversation with a simulated person presented by an AI program, can you tell how far you've let your sense of personhood degrade in order to make the illusion work for you?

      You have to perform the test in a scientific fashion.

      In the original Turing test, a human converses freely with a machine for an arbitrary period of time (days? months?) .
      The human has no idea who or what they are conversing with.

      Afterword, a panel of experts reviews the recordings of the conversation and tries to determine which was the human and which was the machine.
      This repeats many (dozens? hundreds?) of times.
      If a statistically significant number of judges guess right, then the machine has faile

  • Let me just say that my claims that my patented AI helps it to roll right off into your hand are entirely true. And anyone who says otherwise is just jealous that their toilet paper isn't nearly as smart.

    • If you don't stop with your misleading marketing, you'll cannibalize sales of your nano-tech TP.

    • seems that "AI" is the new "Gluten Free".
    • by allo ( 1728082 )

      does it roll on the wall or far from the wall?

      • I don't even know the name of it, but I used to work in a place where it was neither. The axis was - get this - normal to the wall. For any DeVry grads, that means "sticking out".

        I know, I lead a crazy life. The odds will catch up with me one day.

        • by allo ( 1728082 )

          I've seen such a thing as well. But there are still two possible directions. But possibly then one really makes much less sense. But you know people will always try to do the wrong thing.

  • by sumsguy ( 4592837 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @02:08PM (#54840813)
    When you start seeing companies changing their names to include AI, start cashing out your investments. Similar to the .com bubble, and the craze over a company name having *-tronics in the 1960's (including ones having NOTHING to do with electronics), from what I remember reading.
  • And the reason they are doing so is to get in on the PHB-loved, Gartner "Magic Quadrant" scam game.

    • by sheph ( 955019 )
      This is entirely correct. I know many clueless managers who live and die by that Magic Quadrant.
      • I see Gartner the same way as "shock-blogs: full of opinionated crap and fake news, but often a convenient source of interesting background material and further reading.
    • Fuck. Had to look it up. Seems that's an actual thing.

      Seems to be a lot of fluff. A second-rate pastiche on BCG's matrix thingummahicky.

    • by MattCC ( 551250 )
      I think you're a little harsh. Garnet puts a lot of AI into those reports.
  • by Anonymous Coward


    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @02:29PM (#54840959) Journal

      or "buzzword chasing". I've seen it many times since the beginning of my career. When relational databases became The Thing in the mid 1980's, every database product made just enough tweeks to call their database "relational", even though the implementation was either questionably relational, and/or done poorly.

      When GUI's were The Thing when Windows 3.1 came out, every product tried to shoehorn their app into a GUI. Often they bundled it with the DOS version so that when customers found out the hard way the GUI version was dodgy or immature, they'd install and use the DOS version. Their phone support people echoed, "try installing the DOS version, you may like it better" hundreds of times a day.

      I was just reading about the early years of Oracle corporation. They bragged their database ran on a dozen or so computer brands (AKA "cross-platform"). In practice, it didn't work very well on most those listed on the brochure because they didn't bother fixing the platform-specific bugs for low-sales platforms. So, in practice, Oracle really ran on just a handful of computer brands.

      Jamming dodgy AI into products to call them "AI based" seems to be the same ol' game.

    • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @02:30PM (#54840965)

      Companies don't "lie". They engage in "marketing".

      • Companies don't "lie". They engage in "marketing".

        And that reflects the large amounts of cashish being thrown at AI. That's just human nature or business nature.

        The underlying and more scary socioeconomics should be considered - competing AI in business. It was one thing when people competed against people, but machine against machine is far more serious even if people are not directly in harm's way. The problem is that machines, smart or not, are still pretty competent at brute force. A machine that is losing knows only to search longer and overturn more

    • by sheph ( 955019 )
      aka Marketing
  • I disagree, I think if anything claims of artificial intelligence have been understated for thousands of years. Wasn't it just last year the US voted to have an artificially intelligent president?
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      I don't think he can yet pass the Turing test, so I'm not sure that counts as true AI.

  • About to see it on a Tide soap box just beside HE tag!

  • Not now. Not ever.
    I firmly believe that MOVIE/TV version of AI will never happen. We will get expert systems, with pretty good machine learning, but that is as close to AI as we will ever get.
    • I would tend to agree. Transistor size and density is reaching the point where the quantum tunneling effect kicks in and breaks transistors. In a nutshell, Moore's law is about over as we will not be able to continue to put more transistors in smaller packages.

      Some new form of computing may be invented that lets it continue but I don't think we will get anywhere near the abilities of a human brain.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Somehow, the brain performs in ways that create intelligence... as physical processes that follow predictable and natural laws, there is no theoretical reason that those way could not be simulated in software... the problem with making AI is that we don't know precisely what we need to simulate, or exactly how much of it to get something that looks intelligent.
        • the problem with making AI is that we don't know precisely what we need to simulate, or exactly how much of it to get something that looks intelligent.

          Simulating brunettes would get the job done.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Why? What is it about your brain that you believe makes it so special that it cannot be duplicated by artificial* means?

      * I guess in vitro fertilization is close enough to natural for your definition.

    • If you lack a crystal ball, then you have no fucking idea what machines of the next century will be able to do.

      And neither does anyone else.
  • by Anon-Admin ( 443764 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @02:25PM (#54840937) Journal

    I have said many times that AI is not as advanced as many people think. AI will not take your job any time soon, it is not a few years away, and human level AI may not be here for centuries.

    So, you will not be put out of work by AI any time soon, and with that in mind UBI is not coming anytime soon.

    • Exactly. People (read here 'shitty tech journalism') mix AI and Automation.

    • AI won't be taking jobs soon, but automation will. It does't take AI or machine learning to replace the majority of any office work. In my department there are about 1000 people. Most of them are just reading from one screen some data to pass off to another person will copy and paste to the next. With some intelligent scripts automating things I could reduce the department size down to 50 people. My boss usually tells me not to say these things out loud.

    • So, you will not be put out of work by AI any time soon, and with that in mind UBI is not coming anytime soon.

      So all those truck- and cabdriver jobs are safe for a long time to come, then?

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @02:28PM (#54840955)

    From my point of view as a systems engineer/architect, my usual interactions with Gartner involve exchanges with management similar to the following -- "Vendor W's Product X is the leader in Technology Space Y -- look, they're in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. We're pleased to announce that we're all in on Product X." This cycle repeats every year or so, with last year's Product X replaced with Product Z, who's in the Magic Quadrant this year.

    Having done this a million times at many different companies, it's easy to be cynical about Gartner. It's quite obvious that vendors pay for their reviews, and management loves the Magic Quadrant because it removes any blame from them when it comes time to do a lessons learned. It's the modern equivalent of "no one ever got fired for buying IBM." But -- this report is actually pretty accurate. In the systems management space, we're getting a lot of magic tools that have the "AI" stamp on them, or some lesser equivalent like machine learning. Even if it's the equivalent of IFTTT when applied to real world systems ("system is down, so send an alert while we try to perform the recovery steps in the runbook") it's being called AI.

    It's just the bubble coming to the top -- social media, apps, etc. are also at the top of the hype cycle.

  • Executives fund things that have the right buzzwords. Right now it's AI. Before that, IoT. I remember engines getting funded because they were called "Fuel Cells". It's been going on forever.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Totally true. We have our office at a co-working space and I recently overheard this exchange between three startup founders:

      "We didn't get the deal, I think we need to add more AI into our presentation"

      After about three weeks I see the three man team celebrating and ask what's up. They were funded. Their app is a vague social-thing with under 500 users.

  • The reason this problem exists is because of shoddy tech journalists, who will gladly promote ridiculously wild claims as truths without a scintilla of investigation. When the true fraudsters are so much attention, it forces the more legitimate players who operate on the outskirts of the AI world to start putting their toes in the water.
    • Can you express "scintilla" in fractions of a library of congress?
    • It would also help if investors had a clue instead of just giving money to the guy in a flashy suit that screams buzzwords at them.
    • by Mouldy ( 1322581 )
      So much this. I came here to post the same comment

      I was recently involved in a project that did not use AI, despite other similar projects by other companies using AI. Anyway, it was all very exciting, and innovative and the company roped in its press contacts to shout our new product from the rooftops and we, the project team & the company, were VERY clear with the press when we were asked about our use of AI. We explicitly said "This system doesn't use any form of AI". Many times. I seriously canno
  • I wish I could be surprised. Yet another tech-of-the-day that people will embellish that the do in return for some quick pocket lining. I'm sure, at most, people are claiming their "supervised math model" or "that one algorithm" someone wrote with a bit of data massage as input is now re-branded in the marketing room as AI.

    Honestly, how can I blame the moral compass-less entrepreneurs and suit-genius of washed exploitation? I guess if you're going to get a flocking and get some quick money, I guess why n

  • if(A) then {
    } else {

    Look, ma! I done used artificial intelligence!

  • by allo ( 1728082 )

    Do you really think something like Siri needs an AI to work?
    It needs some clever prerecorded questions and answers and some fuzzy matching for the questions. And then it works better than an AI, as its clear what features siri can provide and what it cannot. So Some program optimized works out of the box, while some AI optimizing itself needs a long time to reach 90% of this. Of course, the AI can work and its hyped now, but most products do not need an AI.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @04:06PM (#54841687) Homepage Journal

    Forrester's latest report says that they aren't. Not even a little bit.

  • More than 1,000 vendors say their products employ AI, but many are "applying the AI label a little too indiscriminately,"

    /me updates resume - Acrimonious "AI" Howard

  • So-called 'AI' is media hype and VC bait and has NOTHING to do with actual Artificial Intelligence. This is just the nail in the coffin.
  • by radarskiy ( 2874255 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @04:30PM (#54841839)

    If it exists, then it's not AI.
    If it doesn't exist, it's vaporware and thus not AI.

  • Consumers don't know what AI even is, so it's not deceptive to use a term that is completely meaningless to them.

  • The AI community has been spewing out mostly hype and preposterous forecasts for almost 60 years now. Sure, we have Watson and the Go champ, but translations remain only marginally useful, and chatbots seem to become, if anything, more pathetic with every passing year. As an academic discipline, AI remains tainted, and all this hype is only going to make things worse, in this respect, once it becomes clear that it can not live up (as usual) to expectations.
  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:32PM (#54842581) Homepage Journal

    Basic statistics are now considered "AI": []

    Something similar has happened with "algorithm", as it seems to appear whenever Facebook, Google etc. are doing something sinister with your data. I guess elementary school was being super evil when I was taught long division.

  • It's making it quite obvious what products/companies are full of shit and best to avoid. So thanks for that I guess!

  • This reminds of when I once bought an external USB card reader with "automatic cable management", which is what I was after. In the box on the side was the cheapest and nastiest plastic spool I've even seen.

  • People seem to forget that AI has been around for decades. It's just that when people used to say "AI", it meant "i wrote a fancy script that makes these digital dudes walk around", and now AI seems to mean some sort or self-learning "neural network" program.

    All told, it really depends on what you define as AI.
  • Many Firms Are 'AI Washing' Claims of Intelligent Products

    An example the article is quick to follow...

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.