The Pitch for AI Might be Worse Than the Pitch for 5G

Google spent the majority of its Pixel 8 launch event talking about AI, just like they did at Google I/O a few months earlier. Qualcomm couldn’t stop talking about all of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3’s on-device AI a couple of weeks ago either. Samsung, who is likely to announce a Galaxy S24 running that same 8 Gen 3 chip in the coming months, is almost guaranteed to lean heavily into an AI pitch to try and move smartphones in a world where smartphones don’t move like they once did.

AI is everywhere, even if it all feels a lot like the big 5G push of years past. What I mean by that is it’s such a hot topic and tech companies are so weirdly obsessed with it, that’s it is the only thing on their mind that they believe can sell…something, anything. The pitch for AI comes off so empty or in the distance or detached from reality, with promises of what could one day happen (5G and those theoretical virtual, on-the-go open heart surgeries with robots come to mind), that I’m not sure it’s as attractive of an idea as these companies think.

As someone who is a part of this space, I’ve tried to listen to each speech about AI and have seen the early tools rollout. You know what I’ve taken from it all thus far? That tech companies think we all want a world made up of unreal bullshit. Maybe that’s too narrow of a view, but man, this stuff is odd and dark.

What I’ve seen and heard are that early AI tools can do magic with imaging. Whether it’s taking a real photo and rearranging it into a non-existent time, removing objects to create a moment that didn’t exist, or having an algorithm come up with something out of a few keywords, AI pushers want you to create memories that didn’t happen. Qualcomm even wants you to do the same with video – they want you erase objects from a video you took, taking this whole unreal concept to another level.

Even worse, read this quote from Qualcomm’s 8 Gen 3 product brief:

World’s fastest stable diffusion enables you to generate an image at a fraction of a second; quickly generate multiple options to pick from or create various social media posts in an instant.

Qualcomm’s vision for the future, beyond magically altering videos, is you generating multiple images that aren’t real, so that you can share them in various social media posts within an instant. What kind of hell is this?

Beyond the fakeness of imagery and video, AI is supposed to be here to write entire documents for us or emails or news stories. Maybe they’ll plan entire vacations too, through Google Bard, which is powered by Google Search and a broken internet filled with SEO trash written by other AI or SEO bros who don’t know anything of the subjects they write, only that Google’s other algorithms will love it and present it to AI. What a cycle, eh?

Samsung, according to the Korea Daily, is about to make a big bet on all of this AI with the launch of the Galaxy S24 series. Several quotes throughout their story suggest Samsung believes AI will help separate them once again from Apple, who continues to crush it globally with iPhone sales. Are they going to do that by explaining how their high-end camera hardware, that will be fully capable of taking ridiculously impressive real images and video, can also turn those into a world that doesn’t exist? Do you really want that? Who wants that?

I’ve been using the Pixel 8 Pro for a full month now (write-up on that coming shortly) and I’m not sure the AI within or on a distant server somewhere is helping me much. Sure, I tested a lot of the AI image tools and they work to a degree. I like reality, so I can’t imagine using them much going forward except to make a fresh wallpaper for the day. Clearer sounding calls that I never take? That’s cool. Sending the few calls I get to an AI assistant for screening? OK, I actually do like to do this. But what other AI tools am I using? Probably none.

I used the hell that is Google Search to try and enlighten myself on the top use cases for ChatGPT and found this list from MakeUseOf. Apparently an AI tool can give me relationship advice. That’s a top use. I could use it to write music, which seems like the exact opposite thing someone who is into music should want to do. It wasn’t that long ago that artists were accused of using a ghostwriter to write their lyrics, and now there are tools you can pay for to do that exact thing. Great. I could get tips on how to improve my health…from an algorithm? I’m good.

AI has uses, don’t get me wrong. Most that I’ve seen pitched continue to be one-off situations, like helping you start a resume and cover letter, looking through code, solving complex math equations, creating summaries when you may not have time to consume the entirety of something, or in setting where you need instant translations. Where this all feels so gross is in the pitch from companies like Google or Qualcomm who believe this is daily use stuff, because that’s when we move into an artificial world.

Do you want that? What’s your reaction when a company leads with AI?


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