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AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is the new favorite word for marketers. Is Artificial Intelligence just a marketer’s fancy way of describing an algorithm or advanced automation?

What many companies call their AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is really just glorified Input/Output. AI makes for good marketing, but in many cases, it’s just not true.

This Conversation Really Happened

A buyer for a global company asked me a not-so-surprising question regarding our technology solution. I’ll explain here what I shared with him.

Buyer: Can you explain your AI?

Me: Excuse me?

Buyer: Can you explain how your AI works? We’re comparing the AI of each company we’re considering using.

Me: We don’t have any AI. Neither do they.

Buyer: Excuse me?

Me: AI is an overused, sometimes inaccurate, term, and many tech companies use it loosely. What many companies today have is highly complex IFTTT or input/output. In the tech world, IFTTT is neither artificial nor intelligence. It’s basic computer functions, even if it’s many happening at once.

Buyer: So none of these solutions are really AI?

Me: Correct. It just a marketer’s way of getting attention when presenting a solution. It’s the modern way of saying you have advanced technology.

This isn’t a slam to marketers. I am one. I’m simply calling for some honesty, if not accuracy, in how technology is marketed. 

Use human intelligence to share how you can make a difference instead of throwing AI around.

That’s AI: Actually Intelligent.

I had the pleasure (and brain strain) of hearing Dr. PG Madhavan share his expertise on Artificial Intelligence. He shared that most of what is called AI (Artificial Intelligence) today is really IA (Intelligence Augmentation). Here are some examples of what people call AI today, even though these are not really artificial intelligence.

  • Local Grocery Store: Your store may give you a coupon for dark chocolate. That’s based on your “market basket.” It knows, based on what you’ve purchased compared to all other shoppers, you’re 88% likely to purchase dark chocolate if offered a coupon.
  • Facebook’s “People You May Know” Feature: It’s not really AI at all, but a very basic algorithm. People act as if it’s magic. If 128 of your friends know Bob Smith, it’s a statistical probability that you likely know him too. Further, if your phone was in the same room as Bob’s, it’s even more likely you know him. That’s not real AI. Side note: most people have the same internal conversation with Facebooks People You May Know. “Sure, I know him, and that’s why I don’t want to be friends with him.”
  • A Grocery Chain: Might use an algorithm to discover for the past 3 years, most shoppers pay full price for Starbucks Christmas Blend. I’m drinking it as I write this. It takes a human to understand the cultural significance of Christmas, how it emotionally affects shoppers, and why many are willing to pay full price for Christmas Blend the week before Christmas. True artificial intelligence would have been able to log any new product and know whether it will sell full price in a given week without historical data.
  • Your favorite GPS App: If the shortest distance between point A and point B is through a dangerous neighborhood, you need human intelligence to make a good decision. I’m sure GPS technology will eventually help us steer clear of neighborhoods with high crime rates. Today, intelligence augmentation can only tell us how to get somewhere quickly. It can’t promise the journey will be safe. Wouldn’t that be smart?

AI: Marketing’s New Favorite Word

By definition, artificial intelligence is:

  1. the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.
  2. a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.
  3. the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.

Back to my conversation with the global company that asked about our AI. I knew a competitor was billing itself as an AI company, when the truth is that it was glorified input/output. True AI has a degree of good decision making based on historical information and can make decisions not previously programmed. Even better, true AI can make smart decisions without much historical data. If that is true AI, there is much less AI than what is being marketed today.

AI Does Exist

You may be selling technology that’s impacting an industry. It used to be referred to as high tech. Now, marketers, sales teams, and entire companies feel the pressure to talk about their AI.

Unfortunately, highly complex input/output can benefit so many industries, but it just doesn’t sell. Marketing 101 says to be truthful in advertising. Why? If a company doesn’t have the moral compass to be honest, then the other reason to be truthful is that buyers eventually discover the truth on their own. Isn’t it better to have the marketing messages be accurate than to explain that your solution is not “actually” AI, even though you sold it as AI?

Want to market your technology more effectively? Use human intelligence to share how you can make a difference instead of throwing AI around. That’s AI: Actually Intelligent.