August 27, 2019

Exponential Hype: What’s Up With AI?

By: Larry Bridgesmith

A common human reaction to the latest breathtaking news about tech development is often, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before”. With a shrug many new technology applications are dismissed as merely the latest hyperbole and another exaggerated claim of tech supremacy.

Add to that too common experience, the inevitable claim that the next Uber, Amazon or AirBnB tech startup will become a “unicorn” with ground breaking technology and an exponential revenue curve (or “hockey stick”) leading to untold riches for the founders.

It can become simply overwhelming. Our amazement quotient can short circuit with all the hype.

That response is not without merit. Many tech expectations have been promoted and accepted with unmerited enthusiasm. Emerging technologies are especially prone to what Gartner (a tech research and consulting company) has labeled the “hype cycle”. Gartner’s work with the state of technology development is of benefit to those of us working with emerging technologies and helps us recognize the reality behind the hype.

An example of how Gartner configures its hype cycle analysis is captured in the following chart:

Expectations about newly introduced technology become a public phenomenon when the “early adopters” begin to explore its applications and functionality. Tech media begins the inevitable coverage which raises public perception and awareness. What follows is the slide into reality and “the trough of disillusionment” is encountered. Only when real sustainable development and market education occurs in the “slope of enlightenment” that a successful technology application achieves “the plateau of productivity.

It’s important to note that the hype cycle is a depiction of popular perception about the reality behind the hype. In contrast, if the technology in question is moving to a point of successful deployment as it develops and achieves market value, its growth is not portrayed by the hype cycle. Instead, the following chart reflects an additional reality behind the specific technology:

Gartner publishes an annual hype cycle analysis which reveals the anticipated state of sustainable development of many emerging technologies. For several years AI has moved up the hype cycle into the trough of disillusionment and has rebounded into the slope of enlightenment. Most instructively, Gartner has analyzed the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019 and most every one of the 10 trends is a variant of an AI application. The core message of the 2019 analysis is that AI in its many forms is an immersive technology development which is engaging with all technology and is now “driving development” of technologies including AI itself.

More recently, a valid indication that AI has achieved an essential status in business applications was the announcement that Intel has now developed the first AI chip which will enable exponential development of AI applications.

In short, there is now no hype to be associated with AI and it is being adopted universally in every industry and is an implicit feature in most technology platforms.

We are now past any concern about inflated expectations concerning the viability and usefulness of AI.

Instead, the current state of AI is that it has become an essential tool which must be factored into the business plan of every company.

Where does the data reside that could drive your business to better, faster, cheaper and more profitable (or less costly) results? It is probable that essential digital data has been created and stored in silos in your organization over the last few decades. Accessing, analyzing and building an integrated AI implementation plan can turn the treasure of your data into actionable plans for improving your processes, developing your people and capturing market share for your products or services.

The best time to start is now.