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AI is becoming a marketing word and it’s a pity -I

A world map showing the interest in artificial intelligence measured in terms of queries on search engines, China, and the Far East are leading the pack. Image credit: Google Trends as of June 6th, 2019

I was at an event yesterday about citizens’ services and many of the speakers mentioned AI, Artificial Intelligence. Same was the previous day where the topic was healthcare and likewise in all (most) events I attended this year, as far as I remember. What made me think was that yesterday event’s speakers were in no way (with probably one exception) technical people, many of them were politicians. Yet they all had in common the belief that it is not cool to address an audience for 5 minutes without mentioning at least once the key role of artificial intelligence…

I am willing to bet most of them didn’t have the slightest idea on what AI really is, even less on what makes it tick. It was, at least to me, the proof on how effectively marketing has convinced people of the ubiquitous importance of AI.

There is a worldwide  hype on AI, although it seems to have a peak in China and more generally in the Far East (on the contrary “sex” seems to have a much more evenly distributed interest, according to Google Trends).  if you search for AI on Google you get some 5.6 billion hits (versus “sex” that only gets 4.5 billion, and this is remarkable).

At CES 2019 the Oral-B Genius X toothbrush was presented and, you guessed, it was advertised as the first toothbrush with embedded AI. As a matter of fact the toothbrush comes with embedded sensors that can provide a feedback on the time you have been brushing your teeth (your great grandparents clock could do, basically, the same).

Yes, the company states that the toothbrush takes into account the pressure, the coverage and so on but it is really a hard claim to say it has been equipped with Artificial Intelligence.

It is now some 60 years from that Dartmouth conference (1956) that marked the birth of the modern idea of artificial intelligence and progress have been both amazing and delusional.

Delusional because we haven’t been able to decode what intelligence is in terms of an algorithm (how can our brain be intelligent using as elemental computational entities neurones/synapses), amazing because a real artificialintelligence, i.e. something that is different from natural intelligence, has been created.

In this series of posts I would like to take a look at where we are leaving the hype to marketers.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.

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