In the Trough of Disillusionment

The tech community is in a terrible state. How do we get out of the slump?

Boris Müller


Most of you probably know the Gartner Hype Cycle. Right now, it’s a bit out of fashion. But back in the 90s and 00s, it was a fun and slightly ironic way to talk about the progression of technology. The basic idea behind the Hype Cycle is that all technologies move through different stages. Each stage describes how a specific technology is assessed and perceived by the tech community. After the initial ‘Trigger’, technologies move through a ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’, a ‘Trough of Disillusionment’, climb up the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ until they finally reach the ‘Plateau of Productivity’.

The Hype Cycle is a simple model, and it should not be taken too seriously as it’s not backed by data or any scientific method. It allows you to make assumptions about the future — although most of the time these are fairly inaccurate or completely wrong. But it is kind of fun to follow the yearly progression — and sometimes sudden disappearance — of technologies.

While the Gartner Hype Cycle is not a reliable and trustworthy model for the advancement of technology, it offers an interesting way to talk about the overall tech community. Instead of focusing on a specific product category, we can ask where digital technology in its entirety is located on the curve. And it does not look good.

In my view, the entire tech community is collectively in the Trough of Disillusionment. Everyone and everything.

The fact that we are in a deep depression is indisputable. We had terrible data scandals. Social media is addictive and yet full of hate speech and unpleasantness. Troll farms influence democratic elections. Bitcoin scamming. Crypto is crashing. Twitter is wrecked by incompetence and narcissism. Theranos was a fraud. Meta and Google are just advertising companies that have not created a single interesting product in years. Complete lack of innovation and corporate responsibility. Mobile phones rely on rare metals that are mined under inhumane conditions. Silicon Valley is run by white, straight cis men — racism and misogyny are rampant. Exploitation of the form of gig economy. App pricing is broken. The open software community is full of abuse and