I saw someone post about the “AI Hype Cycle” on Mastodon. Against all odds, I’m not going to talk about AI – I’m going to talk about the “Hype Cycle” and the fact we are really too used to it.
You probably have seen this for years – the Hype Cycle for this, the Hype Cycle for that. It’s burned into our brains, probably in part because Gartner actually tried to build a model for it. But we’re now used to the idea that the next Hype Cycle is here, coming, or sneaking up on us.
The thing is a big part of the Hype Cycle is utter bullshit and terrible disappointment. The fact that the Hype Cycle is part of our vocabulary means that we have normalized the idea that we’re being lied to and everyone is going to be bitterly unhappy later, and some lawsuits are going to fly around. We just sort of accept this, it’s been worked into our worldview and our vocabulary.
Everyone even has their roles in this play. There’s the evangelists (who probably made money last Hype Cycle), the skeptics who jump ahead to disillusionment (either understandably or because that’s their role), and so on. Sure some people believe honestly and some disbelieve, but too much of this starts seeming a lot alike.
I’m sure a big part of the Hype Cycle’s existence – and prominence – is because people WILL make money in the latest round of Hype over the Latest Thing. Venture capital streams in, people rush in with the hope of making it this time, and of course the evangelists from last time are on top of it. I also noted the last Hype Cycle for Crypto and NFTs that political actors got on top of it as well, which just amplified things further.
Of course with Crypto it’s still going, but it also seems that every week some techbro half my age goes to jail forever or gets sued for the GDP of a medium-sized country.
But some people make money in the Cycle, a lot of people loose money, and here we go again. Recently in Hype Cycle discussions, I saw a person honestly and sincerely discuss how to prosper in a Hype Cycle bust as a “cleanup consultant” which is brilliantly depressing. I myself have been in IT 30 years and have navigated many a Hype Cycle and I’m kind of done with them.*
But sadly, I think we have to discuss the Hype Cycles to ask why we have to discuss the Hype Cycles. Maybe we need to ask if we can move beyond them into something focused on real results early, on actual caution at the right time, and getting things done.
* Oh and my secret to Navigating Hype Cycles? Stay aware of trends, don’t get caught up, stick with useful skills that will carry over, and put yourself in a place with real deliverables.