All aboard the AI bandwagon

David MoonBlog

The newest way to cheaply imply that your company is on the cutting edge of technology is to repeatedly chant “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) to shareholders and customers. In first quarter conference calls with analysts, references to AI increased 77% from a year earlier.  Alphabet (Google) mentioned AI 65 times in its April call, compared to only 7 times in April 2022. Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft combined for 109 AI references, compared to 29 a year earlier.

As Jeremy Achin, CEO of DataRobot explains, “everyone knows you have to have machine learning [AI] in your story or you’re not sexy.” DataRobot sells an AI platform that helps its customers deliver up to 4.6 times the return on investment. Not 4 or 5.  Not 4.5. Exactly 4.6.

A year ago, fruit company Fresh Del Monte touted its investment in blockchain technology, the backbone of cryptocurrency accounting. Now the company claims that it uses AI to, among other things, perfect avocado predictability. Trash collectors, tax preparers, healthcare consultants and a host of investment and gambling outfits claim to give their customers an edge by using something most of them can’t explain.

Perhaps AI will eventually threaten humanity, but I’m guessing that for the foreseeable future, AI will simply be another marketing gimmick for companies to use, until it becomes painfully obvious of the silliness of some entity claiming that it will end hunger by using AI-produced analytics. Most of the AI hype is likely to eventually fall under the category of  “when all is said and done, more is said than done.” And like with Bitcoin, many retail investors will end up on the losing end of exaggerated claims.

The first time I saw this happen was in the 1980s, when all the large investment firms touted something called “portfolio insurance.” Portfolio insurance was everywhere. Essentially portfolio insurance was simply a computer program that started selling your stocks if prices dropped a certain percent. Portfolio insurance was all the rage, until people realized that if everyone tries selling their stocks after price declines, you get more price declines. Which is how we got the Crash of 1987, still the largest one-day percentage drop in the stock market.

Then came In the late 1990s, all a company had to do was add “” to its name and investors assumed it was more valuable. That is, until the emperor was exposed, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 77 percent. This time around, it’s AI that is driving a market craze, with “AI companies” trading at higher valuations than many of the darlings. If the AI buzz fades, we may see a similar painful end.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management. A version of this piece originally appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK.