Hype cycle

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Gartner Hype Cycle.svg
Inflated expectations of simplistic narratising, yesterday
In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.
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Hype cycle
/haɪp ˈsaɪkl/ (n.)

Along with the simulation hypothesis, a sign of our credulous times. Every year, Gartner [who are these people? What have they ever done? — Ed] plots the expectations of emerging technologies as they spawn, explode, disappoint, trough, then slowly mature, by way of supporting its proposition 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 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 technology matures — that is to say, becomes quotidian, and ceases to really look like technology — and then archaic.

Many of 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.

See also