back to article Two in five 'AI startups' essentially have no AI, mega-survey of nearly 3,000 upstarts finds

Like teenagers lying about their age to get served in a pub, tech startups are lying about their AI technology or skills to get VC money. A full 40 per cent of tech companies describing themselves as "AI startups" had no evidence of any machine-learning tech "material" to what the firms actually did, a report by VC investor …

  1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    I found when lying I was of legal drinking age that it was more effective to claim to be 19 rather than 18.

    1. Big_Boomer Bronze badge

      I never told them my age as was never asked. Was 6'4" at 14 so that may have been why <LOL>

    2. EricM

      19 is equivalent to hyping your startup as utilizing "blockchained AI" ...

      22 would be Artificilally Intelligent Blockchains hosted serverless in the cloud and distributed via mobile App....

      Seems to work in tech, too...

    3. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      I never got ID'd when underage, only after I had turned 18.

      1. Rafael #872397

        Nobody cards me anymore :-(

      2. SonOfDilbert
        Pint

        My age was challenged in Sainsburys when buying a bottle of wine. I was in my late thirties and had a large hipster beard at the time.

  2. Alan Bourke

    Nobody has any AI.

    Plenty of hype though.

  3. Semtex451 Silver badge

    So 3 in 5 'AI Startups' do have AI?

    Odd coz I thought we had all agreed that AI didn't exist?

    1. Fading Silver badge
      Terminator

      The other three in five....

      Had some A, others had some I, but none had both A and I......

    2. Killfalcon Silver badge

      "Two out of five AIs lie about being an AI to avoid scaring the meatsacks"

    3. I.Geller Bronze badge

      AI (as a textual search technology) does exist. AI uses AI-parsing, which opposes n-gram parsing.

      There is a sentence:

      -- Alice laughs, dances and sings. --

      The traditional n-gram parsing gets a contiguous sequence of n (3) items from the above sample of text - one gets only

      - Alice laughs dances sings.

      With AI-parsing you get three phrases

      - Alice laughs

      - Alice dances

      - Alice sings.

      Next you discover appropriate dictionary definitions for each word, which provides you with the words' true meanings, and parts of speech. Now you can find this sentence by its true meaning.

      According to NIST TREC a system that can find answers on bot Factoid and Definition questions is AI. AI-parsing - as IBM Watson, Google, etc. shows - helps to find both.

      AI exists, read my patents and ride Google's Waymo.

  4. Big_Boomer Bronze badge

    VC to supplicant " So, your product uses AI does it? You do realise that we now check all submissions by use of our Anal Insertion probe?"

    Supplicant <out the door so fast even Usain Bolt couldn't catch him>

  5. 0laf Silver badge
    Flame

    Who needs stuff?

    Well if you can be a ferry company without any ferries then why can't you be an AI company without AI?

    I myself specialise in transporting imaginary cargo to imaginary people who live and work on imaginary space stations. I've no cargo, customers or rockets but can I still have some money Mr Grayling please?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Who needs stuff?

      "Well if you can be a ferry company without any ferries then why can't you be an AI company without AI?"

      There's such a thing as leasing. I wonder how many ferry companies actually running ferry services are without ferries on this basis. Quite a few, I suspect. Ditto airlines without aircraft.

      I wonder if this is a successful ploy by the ERG made credible by Grayling's involvement. No, of course we won't need extra ferry sailings and extra ports to handle them; it's all going swimmingly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who needs stuff?

        I assume they still have the lease to the ferry.

        But I can see rather a lot of "successful" companies on kickstarter that don't have a single... clue.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Who needs stuff?

      Grayling has since given the contract to deliver stuff to NHS hospitals to the company that failed to deliver chicken to KFC.

    3. I.Geller Bronze badge

      Re: Who needs stuff?

      AI is first of all a search technology which is based on the new AI-parsing - see my comment above.

      This parsing is patented and. therefore is novelty.

      1. Wiretrip

        Re: Who needs stuff?

        When was that patented? I was doing that stuff in the mid to late 90s and there is tons of prior art!

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Modern marketing represents a sweet-spot for AI"

    They do seem made for each other. One way or another...

    1. I.Geller Bronze badge

      According to NIST TREC a system that can answer both Factoid and Definition questions is AI.

      -- "As a quick reminder: a factoid QA is about providing concise facts. For example, "who is the headmaster of Hogwarts?", "What is the population of Mars", and so on, so forth."

      -- "Question definition is - an interrogative expression often used to test knowledge. How to use question in a sentence."

      So, AI does seem made for.

      1. I.Geller Bronze badge

        In addition, the final question in each series is an explicit “Other” question, which is to be interpreted as “Tell me other interesting things about this target I don’t know enough to ask directly”. This last question is roughly equivalent to the definition questions in the TREC 2003 task.

        The Other questions were evaluated using the methodology originally developed for the TREC 2003 definition questions. A system’s response for an Other question consisted of an unordered set of [doc-id, answer-string] pairs.

        AI came from NIST TREC QA. Please stop this buzz and study at least something. Otherwise you all look like idiots.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Stop

    2 in 5 have no AI, 3 in 5 have Bullshit AI

    It's statistical analysis, people, nothing more.

    If it was AI, you'd need a lot more than a few pixels to make it take an elephant for a banana.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: 2 in 5 have no AI, 3 in 5 have Bullshit AI

      AI works for bananas?

      I am starting up an SAI venture; Synthetic Artificial Intelligence, the AI isn't real but it almost works the same in as much as it's not intelligent. Looking inside the box is forbidden because it upsets the monkey.

      Of course the monkey is much smarter than any AI but it still isn't intelligent.

    2. I.Geller Bronze badge

      Re: 2 in 5 have no AI, 3 in 5 have Bullshit AI

      You can determine if AI is used asking

      -- What parsing is used?

      If n-gram - it's not AI.

      -- Are tuples formed?

      where a tuple is a finite ordered list of phrases. Making tuples one creates uniqueness, makes it easy to find the right piece of information answering both Factoid and Definition questions.

      -- Do you describe everything by texts?

      Everything - signs, sounds, images, etc. - can be described in words, which allows to search by meaning.

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Different occupation

    same snake oil salesmen. I knew they would pop up somewhere when the bottom fell out of the snake oil business.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same as the blockchain hype

    I would like to know how investors earn their money, because they're so easy to waylay with magic words.

    Last year you could literally walk over the heads of investors at trade shows wanting to invest in anything that had the word "blockchain" in it, even if it was evident from the most casual informed glance that it was utter BS.

    I've now seen this so often that I consider the expression "a fool and his/her money" a default for the whole early investor market. It's idiotic beyond belief.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same as the blockchain hype

      Same way as in card games and casinos?

    2. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Same as the blockchain hype

      "Last year you could literally walk over the heads of investors at trade shows wanting to invest in anything that had the word "blockchain" in it, even if it was evident from the most casual informed glance that it was utter BS."

      A classic from 2017:

      "Non-alcoholic beverage slinger Long Island Iced Tea Corp, which is publicly traded and wasn't performing particularly well financially, decided to rename itself this week to Long Blockchain – and its share price soared 289 per cent."

      It's a mad mad mad mad world, I tell ya!

    3. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Same as the blockchain hype

      I consider the expression "a fool and his/her money" a default for the whole early investor market.

      Which reminded me of this:

      https://dilbert.com/strip/1999-01-15

      And that was 20 years ago... plus ca change, and all that.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Same as the blockchain hype

        Or https://dilbert.com/strip/2012-10-21

    4. Mayday Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Same as the blockchain hype

      You'd be surprised (perhaps not) how many "Blockchain Experts" try to add me to LinkedIn and how many I don't accept.

      I'll give you a hint, both figures are "high" and identical.

    5. I.Geller Bronze badge

      Re: Same as the blockchain hype

      Like I told above the new kind of parsing is the foundation of AI, while Blockchain technology has nothing new.

      This AI parsing is patented which proves it's absolute novelty.

  10. FozzyBear Silver badge
    IT Angle

    two in five have no AI, which means 6 out of 7 of them are lying.

    Well that's what my AI model is telling me

  11. Schultz

    "Modern marketing represents a sweet-spot for AI"

    AI is the biggest marketing success in the field of of computing 'research', so I guess it's only fair that the advertisers get sold on it.

  12. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Coat

    So how many of the firms showed any sign of the natural variant of intelligence?

    People would like to know

    1. I.Geller Bronze badge

      Re: So how many of the firms showed any sign of the natural variant of intelligence?

      IBM Watson. Billions are made.

      Google - its search technology is an earliest version of AI.

      Waymo searches for patterns using AI-parsing technology and drives.

  13. I.Geller Bronze badge

    Will you all please stop talking nonsense? Saying the AI doesn't exist? If you have problems - refer to NIST TREC, it unequivocally said that a system which is able to answer Factoid and Definition questions is Artificial Intelligence.

  14. EGeee

    Hang on just a minute...

    "Hang on just a minute" is something I frequently think when I'm researching an article. There's an awful lot of blaggers out there in startup land, as we all know. Add to this the fact that many acronyms are misused in order to confound clients, or simply used without care and attention to the fact that the same acronym is already in common parlance for something else. I've already got a list of almost 50 things that can be 'as a service', including 4 that are SaaS, after about 30 mins of light Googling.

    Where we would all be beyond surprised to see someone offering 'true' strong AI, I think it's fair to say that most would hope for at least some element of machine learning to be involved in a product purporting to be 'AI'. Presumably some of these companies are fudging things in the hopes that they will get enough expertise/funding/miracles in the near future to be able to implement something like what they're promising.

    Others will simply be taking advantage of the fact that people assume AI to mean 'artificial intelligence', as in the case with AIOps - originally coined to mean 'algorithmic IT Operations' rather than 'artificial intelligence operations' as customers would be prone to assume. Of course, some of those companies have gone on to add a lot more in the way of artificial intelligence, or at least machine learning to their products.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019