The Trouble with AI

The global pandemic made remote working a necessity for so many people, and like many others, I also embraced remote learning as a key antidote to professional development inertia. Choosing a course was the easy part – I’ve always wanted to do more with Artificial Intelligence, and to better understand its role in evolving business models, so when a colleague mentioned  a certain Exec Education course at MIT, I was hooked, and 6 intense weeks later I’m hopefully now somewhat better informed about the subject matter. 

Topics covered include: AI origins, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Robotics, Ethics, plus hands-on exercises creating usable AI transformation / implementation roadmaps. However, I’ve found that in spite of all the progress made, AI still suffers a certain amount of:  misconception, misinformation and overinflated expectation, hence the title of this post.

Some key challenges that come to mind include:

  • AI is chronically overhyped – It is often touted as a magic silver bullet with amazing futuristic capabilities, only to fall flat on such lofty promises. This has happened several times in the past leading to so-called  “AI Winters“, whereby relevant research funding is drastically reduced due to pure disillusionment
  • AI delivered can be underwhelming – This is related to the above point – apart from certain headline grabbing antics, the promise of AI can still be disappointing even when successfully delivered. Features such as text-to-speech conversion, transcription, translation, or even facial recognition; once magical capabilities can seem almost pedestrian with familiarity, because once you understand how it works, the mystique vanishes and AI feels just like any other tech
  • AI is fragile – Constrained is perhaps a better word, because the current crop of AI typically function best in highly constrained contexts, environments and scenarios. Even the promise of Artificial General Intelligence is heavily constrained by its inherent dependence on, and/or simulation of, human capabilities
  • AI is flawed – In its current form, AI is severely limited by the human experience and imagination of its creators. Ironically, this also sets it up to underwhelm on any hyped-up expectations. Many of the ethical challenges are clearly reflective of our all too human foibles.

Given the above mentioned challenges you might think that I’m a bit down on AI, but far from it, I’m super excited about the future of AI. The possibilities are limitless, but it’ll take a different frame of mind to get there. The correct mindset must be framed in context of what AI and us are really all about, but that is the topic of a future post, or several, on this topic, so watch this space!

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