What is AI Washing and Why does it Exist?

The term AI (artificial intelligence) has been around for quite some time, though most of us are not fully aware of its mechanics and potential. What we do know is that any piece of technology featuring AI has to be revolutionary and advanced. Tech enthusiasts hold great interest in the development of AI and look forward to witness all the wonders in can achieve.

What is AI exactly?

AI is a computer that possesses the ability to mimic human intelligence. The concept of fully-functional smart robots has been portrayed through many sci-fi movies back in the day. The possibility of computers taking over the world was regarded as fiction and satire, but it doesn’t look that way anymore. Today artificial intelligence can accomplish things that are beyond our imagination; nonetheless, there is no denying that its intellectual abilities are derived from none other than human beings.

AI cultivates a human-like acumen through machine learning; it studies innumerable algorithms and patterns to predict and depict our behavior. As we generate more data, AI further hones its skills and the output improves over time.

What is AI Washing?

No, I’m not talking about a washing machine that uses artificial intelligence to clean your clothes (do you even need that?). AI washing is more or less the same thing as Green washing; remember the time when industrialists were profusely promoting green practices to improve their reputation in the market? Despite talking about cleaner alternatives to wasteful operations and toxic materials, they continued to pollute the environment with their unethical conduct.

The main reason for green washing rather than actually implementing green practices was the cost of transition. Companies were not willing to invest in a whole new infrastructure that would benefit the environment at their expense. To be precise, AI washing is yet another false marketing campaign to wow the public and take their money.

Artificial intelligence is a complex and expensive technology, which means it is not accessible to everyone. However, manufacturers know that the majority of the public does not know what to expect from AI integrated products, and they use this to their advantage.

When manufacturers of several basic household gadgets are not getting enough attention in a saturated market, they flaunt the term ‘AI’ for the sake of getting noticed. They’re selling the same old items with new labels and packaging that highlights the inclusion of artificial intelligence. What they call AI is in fact simple automation, and the consumers are too naïve to realize it.

Why does AI Washing exist?

One might argue that most consumers would be happy to buy an automated product that is skillfully demonstrated. Why don’t manufacturers use smart advertising rather than outright lies to make sales? It’s not that difficult to impress the public after all. Marketing experts know how to make the most mundane products look like something out of this world; all it takes is the right wording and attitude. We all know that most of our daily consumer items are not as flawless as T.V commercials suggest. However, we are happy as long as they get the job done; we don’t care if a disinfectant is killing 50% germs or 99.9% because we cannot see them.

While exaggeration does help sell a product, it doesn’t allow extra margin for profit. Do you know what helps maximize the value of a consumer item? The answer is ‘buzzwords’ like AI. Therefore, when a manufacturer associates AI with their product, they can easily increase its market price by 500% or more. Any technology that features AI is automatically eligible for an extravagant price tag, and AI washing lets companies qualify for minting money on a fraudulent basis.

In addition, people like a good story, even if it is entirely made up. Hundreds of thousands of tech startups enter the international market annually, and many of them talk about artificial intelligence to attract investors. Only a tiny fraction of them are actually capable of showcasing AI in their inventions; the remaining are making use of AI washing to make progress on funding.

How to distinguish between AI Washing and Genuine AI?

AI is a complex technology that has many layers; to name a few, there is machine learning, natural language processing, and deep learning. The functionality and diversity of AI largely depend upon the accessible data; limited data creates beginner level AI and expansive databases are able to produce highly sophisticated AI.

Technology that employs AI is unpredictable in the sense that its abilities grow and expand over time. Machinery that features simple automation can only perform predefined functions; any sort of deviation or improvement is not possible. By and large, genuine AI demonstrates qualities like creativity, innovation, and flexibility. These characteristics do not reside in machinery that is designed to carry out one or few specific functions.

Artificial intelligence in consumer items is very are, given that it is not easy to integrate and afford. Therefore, 9 out of 10 times you come across technology that claims to be featuring AI, you can bet that it’s AI washing. Here are a few questions you can ask to conform your suspicions:

  • What kind and level of AI does your product feature?
  • How will the product’s functionality expand or improve over time?
  • Who is the mastermind behind this technology and what else are they working on?

If all you receive is vague and irrelevant answers, know that it’s all a farce and condemn it. Spread the word to help more and more people beware of this scam.

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