AI washing: a critical look at the hidden aspects of a problematic practice

In the world of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) has taken center stage, with promises ranging from automating everyday tasks to revolutionizing critical industries. But while the potential of AI is undeniably great, behind the shiny curtain lies a less-discussed and potentially damaging practice: AI-washing. This tactic, in which companies misrepresent their technologies as being powered by AI, could do more harm than good in the long run.

Definition of AI washing

AI washing is the phenomenon whereby companies erroneously or misleadingly advertise their products or services as being supported by "advanced AI". This practice is comparable to "greenwashing", although here the focus is on technological rather than ecological aspects. AI-washing is intended to make products appear more attractive and modern, which often leads to an inaccurate representation of the actual technological capabilities.

The subtle motives behind AI washing

The motivation for AI washing is complex. While some companies deliberately deceive to improve their market position, others act out of ignorance or an over-interpretation of what their technologies can do. Startups in particular may be under pressure to incorporate "AI" into their marketing strategies in order to attract investment and survive in the competitive tech world.


The SEC charged Delphia (USA) Inc. and Global Predictions Inc. with making false statements about their use of AI in investment processes, resulting in a total penalty of $400,000.

SEC.gov | SEC Charges Two Investment Advisers with Making False and Misleading Statements About Their Use of Artificial Intelligence

The hidden dangers of AI washing

The long-term consequences of AI washing are profound. By blurring the lines between true AI and simple automation tools, AI washing can distort the general understanding of AI. This leads to unrealistic expectations among consumers and investors and can undermine trust in AI offerings if the advertised benefits are not delivered. In the long term, this could damage the climate for innovation as resources flow into less effective technologies.

The role of education and regulation

To counteract AI-washing, more education about AI is needed. Consumers and investors need to be better informed about what AI can actually do and what is currently technologically feasible. In addition, stricter regulation could help to set clear standards for AI communication. This could be done, for example, by introducing certifications that are awarded by independent bodies and confirm the authenticity of AI claims.

The way forward: ethics and transparency

The technology industry is at a crossroads where it must decide how to deal with the power of AI. For a sustainable future for AI, it is crucial that the industry adopts ethical standards that promote transparency and build public trust. Companies using AI should be required to clarify how their technologies work and what role AI actually plays.

AI-washing is not just a marketing problem, but an ethical challenge that threatens trust in one of the most promising technologies of the modern era. Only through concerted efforts in education, regulation and ethical governance can we ensure that AI unleashes its true potential and does not disappear behind misleading buzzwords. It is time that we intensify the discussion on AI-washing and take action to end this harmful practice.

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Maximilian Schneider Avatar

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