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“AI Washing” and How to Avoid It

by Ant Sh
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“AI Washing” and How to Avoid It

AI washing is a marketing strategy in which sellers represent their products as using AI technology, when in fact they don’t or just have a tenuous link to it. When marketing professionals exaggerate a product’s AI capabilities in order to increase sales, this is known as “AI Washing”. Similar to “greenwashing,” which occurs when a company’s management team makes unsubstantiated, erroneous, or deceptive claims about the sustainability of its goods, services, or business practices, AI washing is the same. Here are some tips by Vishal Kumar, SVP & CIO at Chedraui USA, to help you avoid falling victim to AI washing:

  • Look for independent verification: Look for third-party reviews or evaluations of the product or service that claim it uses AI.
  • Check the company’s credentials: Research the company’s track record and see if they have a history of working with AI.
  • Ask for details: If a company claims that their product uses AI, ask them to explain how it works in detail. If they are unable to provide a clear explanation or their explanation does not seem credible, it may be a red flag.
  • Be wary of overhyped claims: If a company is making exaggerated or unbelievable claims about the capabilities of their AI product, it may be a sign of AI washing.

Looking to invest in AI-native? Make sure you’re asking the right questions.

Unsure as to how to tell between an AI-native from a non-AI-native one during a pitch? Lead with these questions composed by Luis Ceze, CEO of OctoML, and you’ll get the answer rather quickly:

Question: Why is this real AI?

  • If, for example, the answer is something to the effect “our platform boasts an automation engine for streamlining workflows,” probe further.
  • If you get some wishy-washy answer like, “it has some data and some logic,” something is fishy.
  • Or if you get a jargon dump to the effect of, “it’s a database plus a best-in-class sophisticated query engine,” run.

Question: What was built first, the model or the company / solution?

  • If the answer is something to the effect of, “well, we focused on the user experience and then applied algorithms to streamline the workflows’ engine,” it’s not AI-native.
  • If there’s language about “layer in” AI after the fact, or that we’ve “built a sophisticated AI engine on top,” you know it’s likely not real AI.

Question: Is AI a boardroom conversation at the company? You know AI is not core to the company when….

  • The word AI appears on a slide, and everyone is surprised and befuddled.
  • When the founder says, “the board slides were generated by AI.”
  • If the board meeting starts with a TikTok.

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