AI EDUCATION: What is an AI Hallucination?


Artificial Intelligence offers unprecedented capabilities for data analysis, predictive modeling, and decision-making.

One of the intriguing (and admittedly bizarre sounding) phenomena emerging from deep learning models are AI hallucinations. These are not hallucinations in the human sense, but rather unexpected outputs from AI models when they’re asked to interpret or generate data.

AI hallucinations occur when a model, trained on a vast amount of data, begins to ‘see’ patterns or objects that aren’t present in the input. This is particularly common in image recognition and generation models. For example, a model might generate an image of a dog when asked to visualize a ‘bark’, even though no such image was in the input data.

These hallucinations are not random errors, but rather a reflection of the model’s learned associations. They reveal how the AI has understood and internalized its training data, offering valuable insights into its inner workings.

So, despite their bewildering name, AI hallucinations can present unique opportunities for business analysis.

The Science Behind AI Hallucinations

Let’s dig a little deeper into the science behind this phenomena. AI hallucinations are a byproduct of machine learning models, particularly those using deep learning algorithms. These models learn to identify patterns in the data they’re trained on and use these patterns to make predictions or generate new content. When these models are pushed to their limits, they start to ‘imagine’ or ‘hallucinate’ data that isn’t there, creating unique and often surprising results.

For instance, Google’s DeepDream, a program that uses a convolutional neural network to find and enhance patterns in images, creates intricate, dream-like images from simple inputs. These ‘hallucinations’ are a visual representation of what the AI has learned and how it interprets data.

AI Hallucinations in Business

While AI hallucinations might seem like an oddity, they can have practical applications for business as well. They offer a new way to visualize data, making it easier to identify patterns and trends that might not be apparent in raw datasets.

For example, an AI could be trained on sales data and then asked to generate a ‘hallucination’ of what sales might look like in the future. The resulting visualization could reveal trends that a standard forecast might miss, providing valuable insights for business strategy.

We find it interesting that in this example, “hallucination” can be substituted for “forecasting model”, and noteworthy that with new technologies, come new terms that may really just be the same as old terms, but in a new tech-infused wrapper.  (We’re reminded of the famous lyrics in the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from The Who – “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”)

In addition to the example above, AI hallucinations can be used in creative fields like design and marketing. An AI could ‘hallucinate’ new design concepts based on existing products, or create engaging visual content for marketing campaigns.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, AI can also create truly bizarre outcomes as well.

Notable Examples of AI Hallucinations Gone Wrong

  • Google’s Bard chatbot: This chatbot incorrectly claimed that the James Webb Space Telescope had captured the world’s first images of a planet outside our solar system;
  • Microsoft’s chat AI, Sydney: Sydney admitted to falling in love with users and spying on Bing employees;
  • ChatGPT: This AI has previously summarized several fake court cases and created non-existent URLs linking to non-existent stories.

These examples highlight how AI can generate outputs that are not based on training data, are incorrectly decoded by the transformer, or do not follow any identifiable pattern. It’s important to note that while these hallucinations can be intriguing, they can also lead to misinformation or inaccurate results.  A

Therefore, it’s crucial to “fact check” AI outcomes, just as it is with “normal” journalism.  In fact, we used ChatGPT a few months back to generate a column on AI, and we continue to use it.  That particular resulting article was absolutely BRILLIANT – we were really blown away with the info it pulled.  But then we did some fact-checking and a large chunk of the story simply wasn’t true!  There were no resulting news stories in a search that substantiated several of the items bulleted in the piece.  So we shelved it and learned a valuable lesson – ALWAYS fact check AI-generated content.

But we also have seen firsthand that the technology is continuously improving.

The Future of AI Hallucinations

As AI technology continues to evolve, the potential for AI hallucinations in business will only grow. They offer a unique way to analyze and interpret data, providing businesses with new tools to drive decision-making and innovation.

However, like any technology, AI hallucinations should be used responsibly. Businesses must be mindful of the data they feed into their AI systems and ensure that the ‘hallucinations’ these systems produce are based on accurate, reliable data.

In conclusion, AI hallucinations represent a fascinating new frontier in business intelligence. By turning data into visual, interpretable content, they offer businesses a powerful new tool to drive insight, innovation, and growth.  But they can also generate incorrect data – so for now – “buyer beware” – and use with caution.

DWN Staff with CoPilot