What is AI Washing?

If this is the first time you are hearing the term “AI Washing,” let me clarify that it has nothing to do with a washing machine that incorporates artificial intelligence. Jokes aside, it is a trending subject in the tech industry and the concept is similar to that of “Green Washing.” You must be familiar with how ‘going green’ turned into a fad in the past couple of years. Owing to the growing environmental problems, it was something that organizations could embody and contribute to saving the earth.

Unfortunately, many companies were solely using green marketing to deceive the public. They would proudly claim to have switched to green values, in order to improve their reputation; in reality, it was just lies, as they never even intended to abandon malpractice. AI washing is pretty much the same, where tech companies are falsely advertising their products by stating that they feature ‘artificial intelligence’.

In majority of cases, the connection with AI is farfetched or completely void. The foremost explanation is that these people do not truly understand what AI is, and tend to confuse it with ML (Machine Learning). Other businesses are intentionally misleading their clientage and using ‘AI’ labels to rebrand conventional stuff. It has become a profitable strategy because artificial intelligence fascinates the common man, who is also unaware of its actual potential.

How to Identify AI Washing?

AI is a phenomenal facet of modern technology that is gradually taking over, yet it is still on the initial stages of development. Machine Learning is a subset of artificial intelligence, and probably the only form of it that is currently prevalent. All AI does utilize ML, but ML alone is much simpler, and unqualified to be considered as AI. Real AI is very complex and resembles the human brain, which means that it grows and gets smarter over time. Practically speaking, only massive organizations like Google, Apple, and Facebook have the staff and resources to actually establish and implement AI in their projects.

The bulk of AI washed technology demonstrates standard Machine Learning at best, which involves a series of algorithms generated by a predefined data set that produces predictable output. Chat bots and virtual assistants are the leading examples of ML. Their programming allows them to answer many generic questions, and their responses are naturally mechanical. Try asking them something entirely off topic or bizarre, and they will completely fail to impress. With true AI, this will not be the case as it will be capable of ‘thinking’ and making humanlike conversation.

It is not so difficult to recognize AI washing when you see it. If you want to confirm that a company genuinely employs AI in their technology, you can start by examining the workforce and their expertise. Do they have a surplus of competent data scientists, mathematicians, software architects, and engineers on their team? If yes, then move on to analyze the scope of their data. Do they have numerous sources of data collection? Is their database genuinely deep-rooted and highly evolved to be associated with AI? If the answer to both of those questions is an affirmative, they might actually be on to something.

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