The never-ending technology hype cycle

Quicken Loans says it has 30 years of lending experience and closed more than $140 billion in mortgage loans in 2013-2014. They say they have streamlined the mortgage loan process and it is “engineered to amaze”. A few weeks  ago, I saw a commercial for their Rocket Mortgage app, with a 8 minute approval process, and my immediate reaction was  “about time”.

Having refinanced our mortgage a few times over the last two decades I continue to be staggered how long the process takes and how paper intensive the closing step is. Even though the bank has remained the same, they cannot seem to find or leverage the results of the previous round.

The Rocket approval process sounded intriguing, but I was pretty sure the inspection, appraisal and other steps would add several more weeks to the process. Sure enough, the app only streamlines the loan pre-approval process – mostly the credit background checks. A bit misleading I thought to talk about the whole process in terms of minutes versus weeks.

Then I saw their Super Bowl ad and I cringed. The message is “If it could be that easy, wouldn’t more people buy homes?” and from that the promise of jobs for workers who in turn would buy more homes, stoking the economy further and then the claim “and isn’t that the power of America itself?”

Wow, never has an app had so much impact on our economy!

While I was thinking hype, many others were thinking 2008 sub-prime crisis.  Indeed, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau felt the need to tweet soon after encouraging home buyers to take their time and ask questions during the mortgage process. And Quicken Loans social media team has had an avalanche of concerned responses. Sure, their product awareness has spiked but not sure the company’s image will benefit long term from the PR.

And  it made me think, we (I am no exception) technology fans hype up technology a bit too much. For years I have seen enterprise vendors over-promise payback from their products, but they are selling products to corporations who have analysts and accountants who can vet their claims. In consumer world, the hype leads to unintended reactions from many quarters.

As I continue my research on automation, I am seeing so much hype around machine learning, drones and robots, and I am seeing the common person freak out and behave as if we will all be jobless in a couple of years. Amazing how much pessimism there is about jobless futures, even though my research shows most of these technologies will reshape occupations, not replace them, and that process will likely take decades.

So here’s my appeal to fellow technologists. Hype your product – it’s in our DNA. But don’t over-hype and if you do, be prepared for all kinds of overreactions.

(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)

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