It’s another day, another set of company announcements, and blog posts about Artificial Intelligence (AI) being the next big thing in a world that is obsessed with the next big thing. Every major publication has covered the advent of artificial intelligence showing varying levels of understanding. AI has become the new Big Data (remember that phrase and how it was overused) and paraphrasing Dan Ariely ‘Artificial Intelligence is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…
Unsurprisingly, every new startup in the technology space is claiming some form of AI because they know that many investors are now interested in this hot space. It has become de-rigueur to throw the word “algorithm” into a pitch deck. Some investors find it irresistible: the promise that machines can learn and gain intelligence like humans do, with the ability to gain intelligence exponentially faster (and probably better) than humans. The thinking is that AI can solve a ton of problems because machines (and algorithms) are less biased than human beings and this automatically makes them better than the millions of workers who do some of these jobs. Granted there are some jobs that it is better to have automation take over (e.g. sorting mail at the post office) but there are more jobs that are probably best refashioned into roles where AI is augmentation and not replacement. But from the noise we all hear from the traditional venture capital investors there is no problem that cannot be solved using AI; it is the new hammer that makes everything look like a nail.
Do I think AI is unimportant? Far from it. I believe it will bring a huge leap in our capabilities as knowledge workers in a world that is fast changing due to technological advancements. So why am I railing against AI? I am not railing against AI, I am railing against sheep like tendencies, by entrepreneurs and investors alike, to chase after the seemingly next big thing in a world where there are still a lot of problems to solve (read my colleague Euler’s excellent blog post on this here). By chasing less impactful or, in this particular case, crowded opportunities/markets we all miss out on the possibility of pouring our scarce resources of time and money into solving real problems. Unfortunately, the effect is that everyone rushes in, good money and bad money flows in because folk do not want to miss out on the next big thing and, just as quickly as it started, the bubble bursts. Left in its wake will be a slew of investors who have made bets and destroyed value, and entrepreneurs who have spent and wasted time chasing less impactful opportunities.
So what it is the point here? The point is that we need to start playing the long game as we build businesses and recognize that there are markets of opportunity where a little can still go a long way and you can do well (generate huge returns) and do good (impacting the lives of millions of emerging market citizens). It’s why we do what we do at VestedWorld. Everyday.