This Is the Worst Part of the AI Hype Cycle

Hype is proliferating, and some of its ensuing disappointments have been, well, disappointing. There’s something to consider beyond the hype cycle: hype burnout.

The hype cycle, as defined by Gartner, which tracks it, is that series of cyclical events that happens around nearly all emerging technologies: the breakthrough, the “peak of inflated expectations,” the disillusionment, the period of actual serviceable uses of the tech, and the time when it’s adopted. That pinnacle is the groan time, the moment Justin Bieber drops more than $1 million on an NFT. The moment Facebook buys Oculus. The moment the bodega starts taking bitcoin and you know you’ll never be able to escape this thing, whatever it is.

This isn’t to say AI is over-hyped. Just that society has now hit the point where people in every field are now enamored with it, and experimenting. That will lead to wild new creations, like books written with ChatGPT, and oof-worthy moves like lawyers using AI to write legal briefs and citing nonexistent cases. It’s Holly Herndon deepfaking her own voice, and Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services getting flooded with bot-generated tunes. Until all of AI’s killer applications surface, anything can be a killer app.

This overwhelming moment may feel even more daunting because it’s on the heels of so many hype cycles. The eruption of generative AI comes shortly after Facebook transformed into Meta, crypto outfits like FTX collapsed, and Elon Musk completed his takeover of Twitter.

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