What Crypto Can Teach Us About A.I. Hype

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

There was a moment in time, a brilliant spark. Citizens around the world sat on the edge of their seats with bated breath. Proclamations were made. The end of capitalism, of the global financial system, was nigh. Goodbye wealth inequality. Sayonara wage suppression. Anyone would be able to mine their money in their sleep. Cryptocurrency. And then the spark fizzled. Some things changed. Not very much.

Today, cryptocurrency is estimated to represent around .023% of the world’s money. The global financial system still works. Crypto is largely seen, in no small part thanks to actors like Sam Bankman-Fried and others, as a 21st century pyramid scheme. It was a tech world hype machine.

While the Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) industry is not a pyramid scheme and can actually be of enormous benefit to business and humanity, the current hype could end up stalling progress rather than advancing it. The A.I. industry could learn some lessons from the crypto bro’s hype and other technology hype, like Theranos.

How The Artificial Intelligence Industry is Hurting Itself

The obvious answer is over promising and under delivering. A fast track to disillusionment and disappointment. But all the hype, the grandstanding, chest thumping cacophony of self-proclaimed “experts” with six months experience in business, are merely symptoms.

On Twitter (uhm, sorry, X), there is a daily torrent of proclamations on the salvation of AI delivered in a fervour that would make a side show hustler seem middling and mundane. PowerPoint is dead. Excel is dead. Email is dead. This and that and the other job is dead. Except none of this is remotely true.

Never in the history of our industrialised society has any technology caused anything to die in a day or a month or a year. The biggest job losses from cars wasn’t humans. It was horses. About 20 million or so. As factories ramped up, many more were hired. This took decades to unfold. Not weeks or months.

Hype around digital technologies is nothing new, but the fever pitch of AI hype is a new level. The challenge become when the reality sucker punches a hyped technology in the gut. When the market demands the evidence and none can be seen, we become…

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Digital Anthropologist | Chief Innovation Officer | I'm in WIRED, Forbes & National Geographic etc.