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Blame Watson: Real AI vs. Fake AI

The phrase “Artificial Intelligence” has become ubiquitous over the last several years and we know where to place the blame — on IBM’s Watson. From predicting the weather to playing Jeopardy to diagnosing patients, Watson, and thus AI, appears to be everywhere and apparently can do anything. No longer the terror that is HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the new perception of Artificial Intelligence is that machines can and already do help humans with virtually anything.

Because of the excitement around AI and the possibilities through using this technology, many companies are blurring the lines of what AI means in order to capitalize on the recent trend with both investors and consumers. Unfortunately, much of those claims are smoke and mirrors, causing customers to buy into fake AI systems. In order to not be one of those sucked into this trap, we first must outline what AI truly is.

Artificial Intelligence implies using a combination of neural networks and machine learning that provide insight, analysis, and action without human interaction or direction. Useful and autonomous AI eliminates the need for human intervention and interaction; the machine does all the work for humans, it doesn’t just provide insights. For example, a true AI system could ingest massive amounts of data, provide analysis of said data, and take the next step to action on that analysis. Instead, what many systems and services use is “machine learning.”

Machine learning, while good, still requires human interaction to provide the structure and the continually revised set of rules the machine uses in order to “learn.” While many of these systems are very good, if a company is seeking to eliminate this work entirely from their human workforce’s to-do list, this system would not be able to do that.

So, how to tell if the system you’re considering is truly autonomous and thus worthy of the investment.

· Does it require a human to manage the system?

· Is it something that requires months of on-boarding?

· Does the system actually do the work for you or does it just provide suggestions for what you then have to do yourself?

Before you buy a system make sure that it will actually improve your workflow for the better, not add another difficult layer of work for you and your colleagues to manage. The benefit of using AI is always to improve on the speed in which work can be done, exceeding what a human can do. If your system is not providing that service, it may be time to rethink it.

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