The dangers of AI hype as told by your favorite fables

September 6, 20173 Minute Read

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What does artificial intelligence mean to you? No, really—take a second, close your eyes, and let AI stew in your mind. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Okay, great. You likely painted a mental image of artificial intelligence that embodies one of two very different camps.

Just as there are people who crumple their toilet paper and those who fold it, AI either drives excitement on par with Bicentennial Man or compels you to order wings without putting down your Xbox controller.

Either way, there are some very real dangers involved with over-selling artificial intelligence. On one hand, you don’t want your office expecting an R2 unit humming down the hall to snatch documents off of the office’s secure printer, but you also want to keep employees excited about the very real innovations it offers. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid.

The boy who cried wolf

We all know the story: bored kid tricks well-meaning folks into thinking that wolves are attacking their sheep. The joke is ultimately on the boy, as his cries for help fall on deaf ears when hungry wolves actually turn up. By trumpeting artificial intelligence as some form of technological sorcery that will simultaneously protect your networks while serving ice-cold, craft brew at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, you’re essentially guilty of the same sin.

While no less useful in its current form, you need to temper the expectations of every artificial intelligence stakeholder. Doing so will help keep minds open to the inevitable changes that artificial intelligence bring. The Atlantic recently published an article detailing these exact issues in detail.

The Midas touch

Continuing our fable trend, old King Midas had an unhealthy infatuation with gold which ended rather tragically. By over-selling artificial intelligence, you run the same risk. Okay, maybe not death, but you get the idea.

True perils come to fruition by forgetting what artificial intelligence actually is. Much like those “As Seen On TV” stickers, you begin to let the “AI-ness” of a given technology sway your otherwise objective decision-making. Sooner or later you find yourself spending big bucks on an AI-enabled, business intelligence platform that’s really just a polished piece of automated software.

Best not to forget that true artificial intelligence can learn and respond to its newfound knowledge.

The tortoise and the hare

In possibly the greatest underdog story of all time, a footrace between two undeniably unequal opponents ended in a tremendous upset. What was the hare’s greatest downfall? That’s right: overconfidence. Seeing a pattern here?

If you get caught-up in the hype of what artificial intelligence can do for your environment, you run the risk of looking every bit as foolish as that unfortunate hare. Be confident and pump the proverbial breaks before preaching the gospel of AI to your coworkers if you haven’t yet taken the time to consider its real-world implications. What problems can AI actually solve in your environment? What problems can it create in your environment? As with any new technology, it’s a good idea to truly understand how it fits into your own business processes before diving in head-first.

In the end, over-selling artificial intelligence can ruin your day just like any other smoke-and-mirrors technology. The key is to keep a level head and make sure you know the difference between AI and a cleverly polished decision tree.

Don’t sweat it. There may come a day when over-selling AI will be all but impossible (if Star Trek offers any hope). Today just isn’t that day, so temper those expectations—but stay excited.

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