My cartoon last week, “AI Written, AI Read”, has already become one of my more widely shared cartoons ever — nearly a million impressions on LinkedIn alone. Generative AI is clearly on a lot of our minds right now.
Nat Friedman, former GitHub CEO, voiced the level of hype related to Generative AI at a Jasper conference recently:
“I think this is going to rewrite civilization — Buckle up.”
Various forms of AI have long been riding Gartner’s famous Technology Hype Cycle, hitting the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” before slipping into the “Trough of Disillusionment.” Eventually, the theory goes, some form of the technology rises up the “Slope of Enlightenment” to find widespread adoption in the “Plateau of Productivity.”
Generative AI seems right at the Peak, where “early publicity produces success stories, but expectations rise above the current reality of what can be achieved.” That doesn’t mean that this technology won’t be as consequential as the launch of the iPhone and App Store, or even as Larry Summers put it, “the printing press, electricity, and even the wheel and fire.”
But it’s still early days. And no matter how promising the technology, it’s possible to over-hype. It’s possible to lose sight of our strategy by chasing a bandwagon in the wrong direction. Not every start-up pivoting to AI with a ChatGPT API will make it. Not every corporate AI initiative will lead to dramatic gains in productivity. In fact, there will likely be a lot duplication, false starts, and wasted effort.
My favorite example of over-hype came at the height of blockchain in 2017. Long Island Iced Tea Corp, a beverage company, announced that they were re-branding to Long Blockchain Corp. Simply announcing a new name with the word “Blockchain” in it led to a nearly 300% spike in their stock price … before they were eventually delisted.
The biggest risk is letting any new technology distract from the fundamentals. How we adopt a new technology to fulfill our business strategy matters far more than the hype of the technology itself.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: