Princeton University’s ‘AI Snake Oil’ authors say generative AI hype has ‘spiraled out of control’


Back in 2019, Princeton University’s Arvind Narayanan, a professor of computer science and expert on algorithmic fairness, AI and privacy, shared a set of slides on Twitter called “AI Snake Oil.” The presentation, which claimed that “much of what’s being sold as ‘AI’ today is snake oil. It does not and cannot work,” quickly went viral.

Narayanan, who was recently named director of Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy, went on to start an “AI Snake Oil” Substack with his Ph.D. student Sayash Kapoor, previously a software engineer at Facebook, and the pair snagged a book deal to “explore what makes AI click, what makes certain problems resistant to AI, and how to tell the difference.”

Now, with the generative AI craze, Narayanan and Kapoor are about to hand in a book draft that goes beyond their original thesis to tackle today’s gen AI hype, some of which they say has “spiraled out of control.”


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