How to Stop Generative AI from Becoming ‘Smart’

Lisa Johnston
Editor-in-Chief, CGT
Lisa Johnston CGT
ces 2024 ai food tech

It’s likely not easy being a tech leader in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime tech evolution. No wonder they might be a bit weary and wary. 

As organizations figure out how generative AI makes sense for their business, expect 2024 to be the year they invest in planning to use the technology; however, the bulk of IT spending will remain driven by more traditional things like profitability and labor, according to Gartner. 

IT spending will also face change-fatigue headwinds, the research firm cautioned, noting that today’s CIOs require higher levels of risk mitigation and greater certainty of outcomes when launching new initiatives. 

“While genAI will change everything, it won’t impact IT spending significantly, similar to IoT, blockchain, and other big trends we have experienced,” said John-David Lovelock, Gartner distinguished VP analyst, in a statement. 

Indeed, in anticipating a future with generative AI, it’s hard not to compare it with the previous tech zeal surrounding IoT and smart devices (and, yes, the metaverse). Such sentiment was echoed by food industry panelists at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, who were cautious of the danger of allowing genAI to become diluted by — sometimes fictitious — overuse. 

“The technology is just a tool to enable the consumer experience. If you lean too much into the ‘It’s smart,’ ‘It’s IoT,’ ‘It’s AI,’ from a consumer point of view, it can fall on deaf ears,” stressed Ben Harris, co-founder and CEO of Fresco, a software company that works with kitchen appliance manufacturers for AI-enabled personalized cooking experiences. 

“We’ve seen it from an engagement and usage point of view from consumers. We saw that with smart and IoT. There’s danger if it happens in AI,” he noted. 

In working with the manufacturers, Harris cited its similarities to IoT, with some companies “having to tick the box” of having a product with AI. But others do see an opportunity to avoid repeating their past mistakes and instead are mindful of leveraging “AI to actually deliver great consumer experiences,” he said.  

“It’s a big learning curve to move [to] a place where all your content needs to be data, essentially,” Harris acknowledged. 

The ROI of AI will ultimately come from consumers, as consumers are winning in the end, said Oliver Zahn, founder and CEO of Climax Foods, which is using data science to turn plant-based ingredients into more similar replicas of animal-based ingredients. 

Thanks to AI and machine learning, the company has been able to accelerate innovation with the goal of creating a more equitable food system. 

“Obviously, there’s a huge amount of interest in AI right now there, and we are going through a huge transformational, one-in-a-generation change because of how different the world could be in a couple years because of this AI/LLMs wave specifically,” added Harris. “I think execs and ourselves are leaning into that, but it’s really important to come back to that consumer message and what is the value that you’re delivering, and starting there.” 

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