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Hype and flaws in the tech industry and the scholarly publishing system

A conversation with Jeffrey Lee Funk about Startup and technology hype and how both affect research practices

Published onMar 20, 2023
Hype and flaws in the tech industry and the scholarly publishing system

Jeffrey and Jo discuss the challenges facing academia and the need for a shift in focus towards incubating ideas and conducting basic and applied research. They suggest that corporations should be encouraged to do more research and that funding agencies should prioritize long-term progress over short-term metrics. They also discuss the need for researchers to consider the stakeholders and potential impacts of their research.

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Jeffrey Lee Funk’s career has been focused on understanding how new technologies emerge and spread, both as a professor and a consultant.

After working in a semiconductor factory for two years and receiving his PhD from Carnegie Mellon, he was one of the first to recognize the potential for smartphones during the late 1990s and early 2000s in Japan, and he worked with several Western companies (e.g., Bougyues Telecom and Nokia). He was also recommending to mobile service providers as early as 2004 that they should focus on apps long before the iPhone was released in 2007. The research done as part of this consulting earned him the NTT DoCoMo mobile science award in 2004. He was also one of the first to recognize that new technologies were not quickly diffusing and that most were vastly overhyped.

His Linkedin account reports daily on this evidence and the need for better assessments of new technologies. He is conversant in economic assessments of VR, AR, AI, 5G, delivery drones, smart homes, wearables, and many others. This capability was achieved through many years of research beginning with teaching a unique course on the economics of new technologies that can be found on his slideshare account Funk98 that built from his Stanford University Press book, Technology Change and the Rise of New Industries.

The course, and the supporting research present a methodology that could have helped entrepreneurs and investors avoid many of the loss-making businesses that currently comprise today’s startup bubble. For instance, this research showed him that ride-hailing and self-driving vehicles would have trouble succeeding as far back as 2015. Building from this course and his academic research (5 books published including Technology Change and the Rise of New Industries in 2013, and about 50 academic articles), he has been writing extensively on new technologies over the last few years in popular websites such as Slate, Fast Company, Salon, Quartz, MindMatters, MarketWatch, Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum and Issues in Science & Technology.

He is currently completing a book entitled “Big Promises, Small Results: How Hype and Misleading Narratives are Hiding Startup Losses, Declining Tech, and Falling Science". He was a keynote speaker at Brain Bar in September in Budapest and a speaker at George Gilder's technology conference in November in Bellevue Washington (Peter Thiel and Eric Schmidt were keynote speakers). As the hype of startups and technologies is eventually replaced by more rational thinking, he would like to help organizations pursue this rational thinking.

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