Every five years or so, the technology world is illuminated and animated with a concept- either a new idea or an advancement in an idea that has been around for decades. These concepts take center-stage in an already crowded “Techosystem” and are developed in the press, at events, and in all manner of conversations. Further, the power of the technology industry- backed as it is with well-resourced marketing—compounds the amplitude of the hype.
In this sense, we are undeniably in the era of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
There is no doubt about it- AI is real. A storm that has been gathering for 6 decades, AI has reached an advanced state in which scenarios thought impossible 5 years ago have been made possible today. Still, we have barely scratched the surface here, with possible outcomes that at once delight and frighten.
That said, the technology hype-machine has also created an enormous number of false claims about AI. Evidence for this is abundant as all-kinds of companies claim great advances in AI and use phrases like “AI-enabled” to describe their products and services, even when doing so has nothing to do with technological advancements and more to do with sleight of hand.
Now, extended claims and futuristic thinking are keys to innovation so it’s okay to be patient with some loose claims but when they collectively become an epidemic, we waste too much time and precious energy in separating the wheat from the chaff.
Here, I believe it is important to introduce a new term- “Practical AI.” Here, we readily distinguish between theoretical and practical as well as hype versus real. We must be exacting in our use of the term and encourage entrepreneurs and other leaders to be honest as well. It is okay to say “we are developing AI products or AI solutions” versus claiming that an after-the-fact rhetorical bolt-on is sufficient. Dreaming is wonderful but lying is not.
The implications of this are vast. Not only with reference to the waste of time and money mentioned above, but also in the investment community which is backing “AI” companies to the tunes of tens-of-billions. Investors have to shrewdly determine if the “AI” being referred to is “Practical AI” or some dreamy derivative thereof.
Words matter, even in tech. Let’s make sure we remember this in the era of AI.