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Hype Train: 5 Popular Myths About AI

Ben Gonyea, VP, Product Management
October 26, 2017

Hear that noise? It’s the sound of the Artificial Intelligence hype train thundering down the tracks. While the train may not actually arrive for years to come, that isn’t stopping executives, IT pros, and journalists from getting excited about AI and its possibilities. While the technology represents an exciting new utility with a wide variety of potential use cases, it does not herald the arrival of a brave new sci-fi future.

While there is no doubting that the nascent technology shows cause for excitement, it’s also clear that for the vast majority of businesses, the time to embrace AI is still somewhere down the road. Let’s take a brief look at the state of AI today and identify some of the most popular myths surrounding it and why they should be taken with a grain of salt.

AI is going to replace all jobs. A central aspect of the misconceptions surrounding AI is this thought that it is going to cause a number of sweeping, binary changes. It’s the idea that, as soon as the technology is “ready” it can be plugged into any system ready to perform any task at or above the level of the human that previously performed it. However, this is more in the realm of fantasy than reality. Though AI will technically replace some jobs, it will primarily act as a way to make our jobs easier, eliminating the more rote, mundane aspects of some jobs.

AI is a singular, tangible product. What is “an AI?” Trick question, there is no such thing. One popular myth is that AI is some type of physical product like a server or a 3D printer. In reality, it’s “a collection of technologies that can be used in applications, systems and solutions to add specific functional capabilities.” According to Gartner, businesses looking to take advantage of AI should select technologies that are most well suited to serve their business goals, as opposed to gravitating toward the technology and deciding how to use it later.

All enterprises need an AI strategy. When new technologies get a lot of hype between them, there can be a disconnect between how much talk is going around about the tech and how many enterprises actually need to deploy it in the foreseeable future. While not all need an immediate AI strategy, all IT leaders should be watching for the emergence of AI-related tools that can help enhance their business goals.

AI technologies are autonomous. The majority of today’s AI technologies are designed to perform one single task. Though more adaptable AIs that can switch between functions are likely to emerge in the future, the idea that AI technologies are machines with “a mind of their own” is again, something more out of the realm of sci-fi than reality. Though they may seem to “think” on their own, they will only do so when directed by a human.

AI will quickly become smarter than humans. This is one of the big ones. It’s the logical science fiction end to some of the other myths we’ve already discussed. That is that AI will autonomously become smarter and smarter until it becomes conscious, develops its own motives, and begins to subvert our own in order to “take over.” Though the combination of advanced analytics, special algorithms and large bodies of data has the capacity to make people believe that these technologies can think and feel the way humans can, there is a limit to AI’s potential “human-ness.” Intelligence shouldn’t be measured on a linear scale but rather in various different dimensions. Computers may be better at calculating much more rapidly than humans but lack in other areas such as emotion, creativity, and strategic thinking.

AI represents an exciting collection of emerging technologies, and for many businesses, it will eventually make a big impact. As it achieves more widespread adoption, it’s important for business leaders not to get distracted by shiny objects and keep their eyes on their business objectives. Do you have thoughts about the hype surrounding AI? Let us know what you think on Twitter.

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