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Technology hype

From Academic Kids

Technology hype is unjustified, excessive discussion and usage of a technology or concept.

Hype (or hyperbole) is a common marketing technique in the information technology industry and other technology industries. Hype can also sometimes be created spontaneously.

There is usually hype at the introduction of any new technology, but only after some time has passed can it be judged as true hype or justified acclaim. Because of the logistic curve nature of technology adoption, it is difficult to see at this point whether the hype is excessive.

The two errors commonly committed in the early stages are:

  • fitting an exponential curve to the first part of the growth curve, and assuming eternal exponential growth
  • fitting a linear curve to the first part of the growth curve, and assuming that takeup of the new technology is disappointing

Similarly, in the later stages, the opposite mistakes can be made relating to the possibilities of technology maturity and market saturation.

In an extreme form hype does not relate to an actually existing product. Software that is hyped before it exists is sometimes called vaporware.

Hype can be generated both by companies seeking financial investment or gain from their emerging technology, or academic researchers seeking notoriety for their research. In the latter case, the popular media almost never questions or does proper due dilligence on claims by academic researchers. Almost daily we read reports of a new "breakthrough" which "could" make (cancer, hunger, poverty, pollution, terrorism...) a thing of the past. The fact that an academic researcher makes the claim is enough to get top coverage in the popular media.

Cold Fusion is probably one of the best examples of hype, and how the popular press will report without question conclusions that would never survive peer review.

Hyped technologies have included (in roughly chronological order):

Other hyped technologies outside the IT industry have included:

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