The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Bitcoin, say hello to dot-com.

Artificial intelligence, commonly referred to as AI, has emerged as a digital siren song for capital-seeking individuals and companies with a slew of emerging products and services. It has reached a point where even those with non-AI-related offerings seeking capital investment are finding venture capital firms and investment managers losing interest, opting instead for anything labeled “artificial intelligence-based” in its description or proposal.

This scenario might feel familiar. Think back to the rush of investments in dot-com companies around 2000. Dot-coms were the darlings of the investment world, attracting what was then considered “smart money.” If your company wasn’t a dot-com, you were at a disadvantage because you weren’t demonstrating “triple-digit” growth in revenue projections. But let’s be clear, it was often projected growth on a spreadsheet, not actual growth.

Absurd revenue projections on spreadsheets weren’t the only allure for dot-coms. I recall a conversation with J.B. Pritzker, a venture capitalist at the time, who concurred with my observation that even something as whimsical as could secure a $10,000,000 investment if you had a compelling PowerPoint presentation.

If you weren’t part of the dot-com investing frenzy, you were missing out on the opportunity to strike it rich. More recently, a similar buzz has surrounded cryptocurrency investments, albeit with a different buzzphrase – “blockchain technology” as the supposed safeguard. Digital enthusiasts seemed to swarm around it, proclaiming its safety due to blockchain technology.

This feverish hype around a buzzphrase also extends to getting companies to invest in emerging technologies or systems for their enterprises. CEOs, influenced by articles in Harvard Business Review and other sources, suddenly declare, “We need to get into AI or AI-based applications.” Consequently, any project proposal featuring the term “AI” gets approved, regardless of how obscure the application may be. “It’s AI – we need to invest in it.”

Going back before the dot-com era, another buzzphrase that opened corporate coffers for financing was “office automation.” It was another vague term with no clear definition, yet it consistently secured funding because companies didn’t want to lag behind in their pursuit of excellence.

Recently, while researching the potential of the Metaverse for the military intelligence publication, American Intelligence Journal, significant questions arose about the implications of a malevolent entity gaining access to this vast digital real estate blueprint. The Metaverse could potentially serve as a planning tool for terrorist attacks, granting access to a virtual city blueprint for strategizing and rehearsing a devastating assault. This nefarious use, never the tool’s intended purpose, could become a terrorist’s sandbox for crafting a meticulously planned attack that would make 9/11 pale in comparison.

Interestingly, around the same time these concerns were surfacing, there was a noticeable shift from promoting the Metaverse and its capabilities to championing AI as the “next big thing” to embrace and, more importantly, invest in.

It’s essential to remember that there is no universal solution or silver bullet in technology that can address every problem. While there are relevant applications, don’t be swayed into believing that this is the ultimate initiative that will either save or doom society.

Beware of the incessant clamor for capital and acceptance. It’s merely the latest wave of enticing promises that periodically attempt to separate the unsuspecting from their money.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.