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How to tell if AI or machine learning is real Posted on Jun 17 - 2017

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False and misleading claims abound that applications and cloud services are now smart. Here’s how to identify true artificial intelligence and machine learning

Suddenly, it seems, every application and cloud service has been fortified with machine learning or artificial intelligence. Presto! They now can do magic.

Much of the marketing around machine learning and AI is misleading, making promises that aren’t realistic—and often using the terms when they don’t apply. In other words, there’s a lot of BS being peddled. Don’t fall for those snow jobs.

Before I explain how can you tell if the software or service really uses machine learning or AI, let me define what those terms really mean:

Artificial intelligence is a wide range of cognitive technologies to enable ad hoc or situational reasoning, planning, learning, communication, perception, and the ability manipulate objects to an intended purpose. These technologies in various combinations promise to create machines or software entities that have—or at least act as if they have—the natural intelligence that humans and other animal species possess. Just as natural life’s intelligence varies dramatically across and within species, so too could the intelligence of AIs.

AI has been a popular motif in science fiction for more than a century, and it’s a particularly strong notion among techies. IBM, MIT, the U.S. Defense Department, and Carnegie-Mellon University, for example, have been doing AI work for decades, showcasing the same kinds of examples over and over again for just as long. The promises today are very much like the promise I saw at these institutions in the 1980s, but of course there’s been a lot of incremental improvement that has brought us a little closer to making the promises a reality. But we’re nowhere the scenarios of sci-fi. View More

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