Avoiding AIwashers

Image via Midjourney

AIwashing, like greenwashing, is the addition of AI to a business model to make things just that much cooler. Even the SEC is warning against folks who are jumping on the AI bandwagon with fake promises.

From the WSJ:

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler has warned businesses against “AI washing,” or making false artificial intelligence-related claims, likening it to the greenwashing phenomenon that has been the target of an agency crackdown.

Gensler said Tuesday that securities laws bar phony claims and require companies to give “full, fair and truthful” disclosures.

“Don’t do it,” Gensler said at a conference hosted by The Messenger, a news outlet. “One shouldn’t greenwash and one shouldn’t AI wash.”

To wit: I recall distinctly a constant mention on NPR’s Morning Edition of C3, a company that makes enterprise software. Over the last few years, you could hear them mention a few simple products that seemed like standard enterprise fare. Stuff that CIO’s and IT folks might like if they were listening to the news in the morning.

Then, suddenly, it became C3 DOT AI! AI everything, all the time! Protected corupuses! Secure LLMs! Buzzworded buzzwords!

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In truth, AI doesn’t have to be everywhere. In fact, most generative AI functionality should be limited to the beginning stages of creativity, used as a motorcycle for the mind rather than a solution for all your company’s ills. If anyone comes offering you an out-of-the-box solution for, say, writing content or finding leads, do you research. Ninety-nine percent of the time you can either recreate the tool yourself with any AI chatbot and most of the functionality isn’t related to AI in the first place.

Pete and I lived through the last hype cycle with blockchain and Bitcoin. This earth-shattering technology was going to fix everything from olive oil analysis to war in the Middle East. Events sprung up that hosted thousands of true believers. Companies like KPMG “pivoted” to blockchain which, in reality, meant they hired someone who knew slightly more about blockchain than the average business owner. The world was going to change overnight once blockchain really took off.

We’ve been waiting for that day since 2008.

Generative AI is really a game-changer, however. That said, it’s easy to use, easy to understand, and easy to access. In truth, it’s the ability to communicate with a computer in plain language and get plain language back. That, alone, is a miracle.

So, again, watch out for companies who suddenly put AI on their websites. You don’t want to have to pay a premium for something you can do yourself for $20 a month.

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