Gartner peak inflated expectations curve

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The Devil’s Advocate

Inflated expectations of simplistic narratising, yesterday

In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.

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Along with the simulation hypothesis a sign of our stupid times. Gartner plots the expectations of emerging technologies as they mature, and arrives at the conclusion that we overestimate the benefits of new technology over the short term, but wildly underestimate them over the long term.

The curve sees a “trigger” — the public introduction of a nascent technology — rapidly ascending to an overblown “peak expectation” which, being impossible to fulfil in the short term, collapses in time into a “disillusionment trough” before a gradual resurrection, as patient and unglamorous work to build out the technology enlightens the world, pulling expectations back up to a steadily increasing plateau.

But rather like the fatuous 10,000 hours hypothesis, the peak inflated expectations curve suffers, progressively, from a debilitating survivorship bias. This kicks in just where the curve gets interesting — its trough — and no-one ever draws the curve quite long enough to illustrate what happens when the mature technology becomes quotidian and then archaic.

Many of the great technologies of the age do demonstrate this kind of technology — the internet is arguably one, though the trough was barely lower than that first peak expectation — but just as many do not. Email exploded, from nowhere, and never looked back. Just as many technologies troughed, never to return.

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