Dissecting hype cycles

Micheal Mullany writing on LinkedIn:

By way of illustration, below is the first Hype Cycle – from 1995. And it’s truly a fascinating historical document. Some of its technologies that have become so ubiquitous, that they’re now background noise (Object-Oriented Programming). Some technologies have simply disappeared from public consciousness (Emergent Computing). Still others are technologies that we thought were almost baked but actually took decades longer to reach full maturity (Speech Recognition).   

This is a brilliant analysis! I am old enough to recognise that the Internet was called the information superhighway. For someone who was hooked on reading, it is the same story as today- to use Internet as a scalable means of distribution of services. It can be entertainment (movies, music), work-from-home or even medical services (once the wearables’ ecosystem matures).

Here’s an insight:

The most hyped technology in 1995 was Intelligent Agents. Two years later, Office 97 introduced Clippy, the enthusiastic, but incompetent assistant which was so poorly received that it effectively killed off the idea for a generation. Today, twenty years later, we’re once again trying to build intelligent assistants, although now we call them Chatbots, and the core tech – contextual reasoning in a broad domain – is still a hard problem.

Intelligent assistants never took off because the networks were not scalable. Internet was a dodgy affair. Cloud computing was non-existent. Software was delivered on floppy disks. Personalisation (and telemetry) was non-existent. However, voice analysis (and emotional triggers) is a complete sub-domain of research. Fiber delivers the Internet. Cloud computing is becoming ubiquitous. Here’s an interesting list of technologies that didn’t survive:

  • Ultrawideband- dead by 2008.
  • RSS enterprise for information dissemination in organisations. It never happened.
  • WiMax- precursor to LTE (4G networks) was dead on arrival.
  • Desktop Linux for businesses (and eventually healthcare) – numerous reasons why it failed.
  • Mesh networks (now showing some resurgence with Bluetooth 5 standard and projects like Briar running on mesh). There are also commercial deployments of Mesh-Wifi.
  • Internet micropayments went against the Google’s ad fuelled ecosystem. Hence, was dropped or killed at inception; the idea behind crowdsourcing still lives.

There are some technologies that flew under radar.

  • x86 virtualisation
  • NoSql
  • Hadoop
  • Open Source.

Interesting takeaway from the author:

What I take away from my analysis of these Hype Cycles is not just how difficult it is to make predictions, and how much wasted effort goes into technologies that doesn’t tend to work, but also how exciting and wondrous is the progress that we’ve made in technology. The labor of the last two decades has given rise to an Age of Wonders: of self-driving cars, computers that almost understand us, and unfathomable scales of data analysis. 

I don’t agree with the assessment around self-driving cars. It is a wasted resource, but will be enough to push stupid investors to put in bucket loads of good money into a fruitless venture. However, Tesla is doing something different and requires a mention in a follow up post.

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