At a Glance – Amara’s Law

Looking at hype in the short and long term

Innovators are universally wary of living up to hype, and with good reason. No matter how ground breaking a technology may be, if it fails to meet expectations then its adoption will be seriously compromised. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get carried away. Chatbots, cryptocurrencies and the first wave of Virtual Reality products all suffered from inflated consumer expectations. However, our tendency to overhype new products, services and technologies doesn’t end there.

Enter Amara’s Law, devised and coined by the American scientist Roy Amara. Amara was a prominent futurist, and was president of the Institute for the Future from 1971 to 1990. Unlike many other technological doctrines, Amara’s Law is beautifully simple. It recognises that whilst we overestimate the short term effect of a technology, we underestimate its long term impact too. This of course ties in with Gartner’s Hype Cycle, which tracks the gradual adoption of a technology or product. A present day example of Amara’s law in action is Artificial Intelligence. Predictions about the short term applications of AI are extensive. However, when it comes to the future, there’s serious uncertainty. We know that AI will imminently change our lives, but we only look so far ahead before beginning to worry about potential negative effects.

At a time of unprecedented disruption, it’s more important than ever to be aware of Amara’s Law. It’s clear that businesses need to consider all manner of theories including hype cycles and the Innovator’s Dilemma, but Amara’s Law is applicable to consumers as well as companies. Now that technological growth is so fast paced, it’s becoming the consumer’s responsibility to give innovation a fighting chance.