Technology | Self

Why You Should Avoid Excessive Techno-Optimism

Deflationary realism will inevitably crash a few hype trains.

Sean Kernan
6 min readFeb 11, 2024

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Woman checking her phone.
Wayhomestudio via Freepik Images (Royalty free)

After the arrival of ChatGPT, and subsequent AI technologies, I noticed an enormous shift in the conversation online. Influencers and tech leaders gushed at the possibilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

People spoke of jobs being displaced and AI revolutionizing medicine, extending our lifespans, and helping us explore space. There was an extreme optimism that was refreshing but also mildly confusing. Can one new technology really do all of these things? And why are these stories about AI so addicting?

The term foomscrolling is an homage to doomscrolling, where one gets caught in an algorithm fueled loop of increasingly dire stories about the state of the world, which often leads to negative consequences for one’s mental health.

A foom is considered a rapid advance in artificial intelligence’s abilities, becoming extremely powerful on its own. Foomscrolling is the indulgence of stories on a prominent new technology. But unlike doomscrolling, there’s an embedded optimism and excitement to this consumption.

Foomscrolling tends to emerge with technologies where the benefits are eminently recognizable, as they surely are with ChatGPT. Foomscrolling also happens when there’s an open-endedness to the possible benefits of this technology, which fuels speculation and excitement.

But this isn’t to say foomscrolling doesn’t lead to anxiety as well. ChatGPT and language learning models in particular, have invoked job anxiety with a number of my friends.

I was recently on vacation with a friend who works for META, and we discussed how safe we felt our jobs were. Though slightly concerned, I’m admittedly more skeptical on the prospects of being displaced by AI — mostly because I’ve seen how much readers loathe AI writing, and because I know places like Medium care enough to invest in human voices.

My friend was much more concerned on the subject, betting that things will change for us both by 2035. He spoke as someone working within a company that is spending billions on AI, which was mildly concerning, as…

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Sean Kernan

Writer and writing instructor. Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.