Artificial Intelligence: the new fool’s gold?

Artificial Intelligence: the new fool’s gold?

Artificial Intelligence has finally emerged from the world of geeks and computer scientists and started to enter the mainstream. Each day I see another press release or announcement from a company somewhere proclaiming how it is using “AI” to improve insight or offer services. Many of these claims I raise an eyebrow to and hope for the day a new fad comes along and distracts marketers.

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing desk research into AI powered products (disclaimer: I didn’t get to complete my Masters Degree in AI and Expert Systems, but I kept up the interest!) Many of those I’ve looked at have appeared to be little more than sophisticated use of rules engines at best, at worst simple repositioning of existing products. There are genuinely exciting developments going on, only these are few and far between.

To some extent it doesn’t matter what’s driving the technology. It could be a sophisticated AI that’s assessing “big data” sets and forming reasoned decisions. It might just be a set of rules being triggered and adjusted by a bucket brigade. What matters is whether the technology is solving a real business problem.

Many companies I’ve visited and spoken to over the years do not need AI to drive improvements. They need better leadership and management, timely and accurate Management Information and more effective ways of working. To some extent Artificial Intelligence may be an unwelcome distraction as it will divert attention away from their underlying problems and towards a shiny new toy that promises much but will only deliver disappointment.

I don’t doubt AI is going to be more widely used in the coming decade. I know from experience the effective use of the technology can bring substantial benefits when used correctly. What I do doubt is a business that has deeper problems will solve them by buying into the promises those two vowels are making.


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