Amara’s Law: False Expectations About Technological Advances

When a new technology is presented, whatever its purpose and use, it is normal that it is initially perceived as something very promising, generating high expectations in the short term.

However, over time these expectations decrease causing people to completely forget about what, until relatively recently, was considered to be something that was not going to be missing in their lives.

This phenomenon is known as Amara’s Law and it is of great importance to understand how human beings relate to new technological discoveries, in addition to the new uses that we can give them in the long term.

    Amara’s Law

    Roy Amara was one of the co-founders of the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, USA, in the intellectual heart of Silicon Valley. This futurist is known for describing the law that bears his surname, considered a good description of how new technologies develop and prosper.

    According to Amara’s law, in most cases human beings we tend to overestimate the effects of a new technology in the short term, while we underestimate its long term effect.

    That is, when a new device, a new social network or a technological application appears, at the beginning people see it as something of great interest and they will not be able to avoid incorporating it into their life, and those who invented it will believe that they will contribute significantly to humanity or it will bring them a large profit margin.

    The problem is that just like everything that goes up has to go down, after a while people seem to find mistakes in these innovations, on top of that, those who invented them come to the limits of the product, or it just doesn’t seem not that what they initially wanted their new technology to help solve is achieved.

    The relation of the law to over-waiting

    In general, Amara’s law is quite extrapolable to how we perceive the emergence of new technologies in the market, as well as to describe how we behave in relation to it after a certain time.

    In fact, the law of Amara it was helpful to suggest the stages of the so-called over-wait cycle, Proposed by technology consulting firm Gartner Inc. This is the cycle that most technological innovations go through.

    The usual pattern in people’s interest when a new technology appears is that at first there are very high expectations and then drop and over time consolidate and even increase the original interest. The specific steps in the process are the following five.

    1. Trigger

    A technological innovation is advertised, either by the company that produces it, the media who want to explain it as news. In this phase, the usefulness of the product is demonstrated, without its commercial use being yet visible.

    2. Maximum expectations

    Advertising has already had its impact: there is a wave of enthusiasm and interest among the population. Expectations are rising and people are wondering how many apps could offer this novelty.

    3. Disappointment

    Once the application has been marketed and people are familiar, to a greater or lesser extent, we see the failures of this new technology, the possible economic waste it entails and its limits.

    Expectations are falling, Since it is possible that many functions for which the device or appliance was reliable to be able to perform correctly, it does not perform them as they should.

    However, it is at this point that those who made the new technology learn from their mistakes, see real new applications of the product, and save the production process.

    4. Illuminated coast

    Having seen all of this from the previous point, it is clear what the technology is for, how to use it to get the most out of it and when its use is most recommended.

    5. Productive plain

    Technological adoption is given. The product grows back, now improved, growth which increases or decreases according to consumption.

    A real case of Amara’s law: GPS

    A good example of how Amara’s law has been given in the development of new technologies is the case of GPS, The app we all have in our mobiles, smart cars and computers.

    The Global Positioning System is a project that began in 1978 and, as with many new technologies, its initial focus was military. The program began with the orbiting of 24 satellites working together around the planet. The main objective was to be able to easily locate American troops abroad and to be able to give them provisions, without running the risk of being wrong about their location and being attacked by the enemy.

    However, and although we now know its great utility, this program was canceled many times in the 1980s. The first operational use of this technology was in 1991 during Operation Sandstorm “during the Gulf War, although the US military was still hesitant to use GPS devices and required more successful demonstrations to eventually adopt.”

    Today it is not only used by the US military. Its usefulness is very evident when one can see that virtually most people who have a cell phone have replaced the paper map with the practical GPS application. But it not only allows us to know where a place is and where we areIt also calculates how long it will take us to get here, as well as traffic, transit times, and places of interest nearby.

    In addition, large transportations such as shipping and aircraft use this device, avoiding entering the same road as other large vehicles, and avoiding straying from where they should end. It would be unthinkable today for an international airport to decide to disconnect the GPS signal from aircraft, as this would imply an air crash.

    All these utilities were not only imaginable for those who developed this technology in the 1970s. They could surely only think of its military utility, never that no individual would use it on a daily basis, nor that it would serve. to organize meeting places in big cities.

    So, as we can see, Amara’s law is very well fulfilled: expectations for SPG for military use were high, the military was reluctant to use it, and expectations fell. The errors have been fixed and the infinity of utilities has been discovered who has GPS today.

    But that of GPS was not a unique case. Other major technologies have also followed the same path from their conception until they reach the mainstream. Computing, human genome sequencing, renewable energy and even home automation have seen their ups and downs in terms of promise.

      New technologies in the classroom: between hope and disappointment

      If Roy Amara did not intend to explain the sociological fascination that we humans have for technology, his approach allows us to better understand how the abuse of new technologies, for which we are new and striking, meant a problem in a fairly important area of ​​society: education.

      Between 2010 and 2020, few schools in Spain did not choose to incorporate all kinds of new devices into their classrooms: projectors with electronic screens, tablets, laptops, mobile virtual campus applications and a long list of ‘other. The philosophy was widespread that any new information and communication technology (ICT) was inherently good.

      However, just as expectations were high from the start, many teachers and students from innovative centers began to demotivate them because, whatever the quality of the technology, how it couldn’t be managed and, in many cases, he didn’t know how. to get the most out of it, it did not bear fruit.

      Linking it to Amara’s Law, it is clear that education in Spain (and that of many other European countries) has been negatively affected by the desire to innovate with anything in the classroom, believing that , as if by magic, the academic performances would be seen. increased. However, by the time it became clear that this was not the case, discouragement came and it seemed that the centers had spent large sums of money on devices which, in practice, seemed to be the only thing they wanted. ‘they would.

      But, as Amara’s Law dictates, we tend to overestimate the effects of new technologies at first and end up underestimating them, which makes it very difficult for us to understand their real and beneficial uses.

      That is why once you see the mistakes in choosing which technologies to put in the classroom and understand how they work, you can make the most of them., In addition to encouraging familiarization with teachers and students in the management of the same. In addition, in the event that it is decided to incorporate new applications and devices of the latest technological trend, it will be necessary to anticipate what their real use will be in the classroom, in addition to considering whether it is really worth it. ” integrate into the institution.

      In the same way that in the last 10 years, the technology has presented dramatic changes, being one of the Spanish educational centers a special case, knows that in the not very distant future, in the next 5 and 10 years , there will also be changes just as important. For the new ICTs to be useful in the centers, they will have to ask themselves whether they are prepared or really need it to integrate them.

      If, as is the precedent in Spanish education, they are incorporated in a very disruptive way, the degree of uncertainty will be very high, which could have a negative impact on the school curriculum, as teachers or will not know how to manage them in the or you will choose not to incorporate them in your courses.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Amara, R .; Boucher, WI (1977). National Science Foundation, ed. The study of the future: a research agenda. Washington, DC: General Post Office. OCLC 3200105
      • Amara, R .; Institute of the future (1972). A framework for the analysis of national science policy. Menlo Park, Calif .: Institute for the Future. OCLC 4484161. P-18. “Reprinting IEEE Transactions in Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, v. SMC-2, no. January 1, 1972 ”.
      • Amara, R .; Institute for the Future (1973). Write the summaries of four workshops on the social impact of the computer. Menlo Park, California: Institute for the Future. OCLC 709544477

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