[Humanist] 28.282 sketching the future: follow the money

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Aug 24 09:28:00 CEST 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 282.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2014 12:53:22 -0500
        From: "Robert A. Amsler" <amsler at cs.utexas.edu>
        Subject: Re:  28.279 sketching the future
        In-Reply-To: <20140823073719.6E95E6435 at digitalhumanities.org>

I'd submit the "money is the cause of all hype" hypothesis to explain what

A "new" technology is discovered. This is discovery in the sense of
something that has already existed for some length of time, but just being
discovered by the business community.

Then, the hype happens. Business needs investors, so they need to promote
their business so people will invest in it. They proclaim great future
accomplishments and the threat of failing to get on the train before it
leaves the station. If you're not working on your own plan to be involved
in the new technology, you'll be left in the dust when the new technology
takes over.

As investors put money in to their own plans, the hype machine revs up.
More hype under the "See, you're being left behind; these investors have
already secured their stake in the race toward unlocking this new
technology's benefits". Now, investors who know nothing about the new
technology blindly pump money into their own programs, not to be left

The original practitioners of the new technology, who are somewhat amazed
by the hype around their formerly quiet little area of work, are in high
demand. But, even if they do caution that it's a long road to success, the
investors don't want to hear it. They falsely believe that throwing money
at the problems will lead to faster solutions. So, they coerce the
original technologists to accept more money, head up new projects, start
new companies. The belief that money will surmount the technical
difficulties is paramount.

Then, things slow down. Some projects fail to produce useful results in
proportion to the investments. The business community proclaims the
technology has gone bust.

Dread sets in. How could we have been so deceived by this false
technology. Collapse. Proclamations that the technology is faulty. It's
important here to note that it was the investors who hyped the technology
beyond the original technologist's research, who stated the inherently
false promises of great success if only investments were made. The
technologists often saw progress as just taking more time since it was
based on the traditional practices of experimentation and innovation--not
on the size of the projects or the amount of money they had available to
burn through.

The business community washes it's hands of the technology as a bad
investment. They move on. But the technologists just continue with their
research, albeit having to perhaps change the nomenclature to stay in
their field of work. No, No, we're not doing THAT old stuff. This is new
research. In truth it's just the continuation of the work they were doing
before they were in the spotlight of the business community's interests in
getting rich.

Eventually, the field manages to climb out of the crater left from the
business community's bomb explosion. You see, there really was new
technology at play. It was solid. It just wasn't capable of taking place
faster if you poured infinitely more money at it.

We've seen this in multiple areas. Neural Nets, Artificial Intelligence,
dot.com companies, etc. Rollercoasters are fun, but railroads get the work
done. Rollercoaster do not mean travel by trains on tracks is poor
technology; it's just that a rollercoaster isn't the best way to build a

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 279.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2014 08:22:49 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: sketching hype
> Thanks to Joris van Zundert I've just this morning come across Gartner
> Inc's Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, for which see the Forbes
> report for 18 August (URL below)*. According to Gartner big data is
> already on the downward slide into the Trough of Disillusionment (see
> the chart depicting this Cycle) -- which is to be cheered if we take
> dis-illusionment to mean the loss of an illusion, which of course it is.
> What's not to be greeted with uncritical cheer is the implication of the
> chart that hyped technologies move with varying speed from the Trough
> upward along the Slope of Enlightenment to the Plateau of Productivity.
> Which raises the question of how one would depict what actually happens:
> some things simply become part of the furniture of daily life, other
> things assume minor, qualified roles. The vertical axis on this chart as
> well as its singular path is problematic, I would think.
> Someone with a better visual imagination is required. Any takers here?
> Yours,
> WM
> ---
> *http://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2014/08/18/its-official-the-internet-of-things-takes-over-big-data-as-the-most-hyped-technology/
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
> Group, University of Western Sydney

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