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Gartner Gartner on the wall, which is the hypest cycle of them all?

Comment It always comes around sooner than you think. With a large slice of fantasy, cultural mythology, and suspension of disbelief, it’s time to get out the tinsel and celebrate the arrival of this year’s Gartner hype cycle.

Officially the “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2021“, the research documents trends the tech industry would like to talk about, even if few emerge fully formed into anything we would understand as the real world.

Top of the gift list this year are nonfungible tokens (NFT), sovereign cloud, data fabric, generative AI, and composable networks, all supposedly arriving to help beat the competition in some way or other, the omnipresent analyst organisation said.

“Technology innovation is a key enabler of competitive differentiation and is the catalyst for transforming many industries,” according to Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. “Breakthrough technologies are continually appearing, challenging even the most innovative organisations to keep up. Leading organisations will lean on the emerging technologies in this year’s Hype Cycle to build trust and new growth opportunities against a background of continued strategic change and economic uncertainty.”

The Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies is unique among most Gartner Hype Cycles, the press release babbles on, because it distils insights from more than 1,500 technologies into a succinct set of “must know” emerging technologies and trends that show promise in delivering a high degree of competitive advantage over the next five to 10 years.

In a statement singularly lacking in self-awareness, Melissa Davis, research vice president at Gartner, added that organisations should “cut through the hype surrounding emerging technologies” as if her esteemed employers were not providing a continual stream of risible hyperbole.

Now, The Register has published a definite debunking of the hype machine, pointing out that, even on its own terms, many of its earlier predictions fail to see the light of day in any recognisable form. For example, just five years ago Smart Dust, 4G printing, and General Purpose Machine Intelligence appeared on the list. Quantum computing seems to appear and disappear from the list almost at random as if springing from some kind of probability field.

Other items appear out of nowhere. The aforementioned NFTs, now darling of the post-bonkers blockchain bubble, is right at the top of the hype cycle for 2021. And yet, just a year ago, it was nowhere to be seen, at least according to the media-shared graph. Conversely, concepts said to be on the up last year, such as two-way brain-machine interfaces, have disappeared without a trace on this year’s chart. It’s enough to make a confused observer wonder if the whole enterprise is even a vaguely reliable predictor of future technologies, or – heaven forbid – a pantomime engineered to keep Gartner’s name and logo in the spotlight.

But for those who keep score, the highlights of this year’s list includes quantum machine learning, machine-readable legislation, and homomorphic encryption.

Maybe we are indeed entering the season when if you believe something enough, it just might come true. ®


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