Tech companies are billing products as AI-powered for that future-wow factor — even if artificial intelligence is only a small part of the equation. In The Guardian, Olivia Solon charts the rise of "pseudo-AI" products that have humans quietly do the dirty work.

Why it matters: Some experts warn of an impending "AI winter" if currently high expectations for the technology are disappointed and investment wanes. Revelations that AI is just underpaid people could spark just that kind of disillusionment.

Companies keep getting caught outsourcing the work their technology fails to do. Some examples from The Guardian's Solon:

  • Products that promise to scan your inbox and use algorithms to tease out discounts and travel itineraries are sometimes putting private emails in front of humans, a Wall Street Journal investigation found this month.
  • Expensify, the popular business-expense management system, paid people on the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform small amounts to decipher customers' receipts, but billed the system as automated, Ars Technica reported last year.
  • Facebook Messenger's virtual assistant, M, used people to fulfill customer requests that the bot itself couldn't, Recode reported in 2015. M was shut down earlier this year.
  • In 2016, Bloomberg profiled the overworked employees who impersonated AI chatbots and personal assistants, delivering services disguised as AI.

Reality check: Some AI experts, like Berkeley's Michael Jordan and Gary Marcus of NYU, argue that many overestimate what AI is currently capable of. For now, talking AI can only hold conversations under very constrained conditions, and small corruptions can throw off computer-vision algorithms.

Yes, but: Bullish researchers argue that a growth in three key areas — computing power, the quantity of available data, and creative new algorithms — will continue to propel AI development and stave off crisis.

Go deeper: Some computer scientists are looking past deep learning, the most popular tool in AI today, for the next breakthrough (NYT)

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Deadly storm Zeta pummels parts of Alabama and Florida

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Former Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm's powerful winds and heavy rainfall moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," Zeta weakened to a tropical storm over central Alabama early on Thursday, per the National Hurricane Center.

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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