When you think of technological innovation, what comes to mind? The invention of the cell phone, the personal computer, or perhaps the lightbulb? All these technologies could also be considered Disruptive Technologies.
What they disrupted and how to look at disruptive technology is an important conversation to have. It could be the most important narrative we conduct in the 21st century.
What is Disruptive Technology?
Let's start with explaining what Disruptive technology is. According to investopia which looks at disruptive technology from a business point of view; Disruptive Technology significantly alters the way businesses or entire industries operate. It often forces companies to change the way they approach their business for fear of losing market share or becoming irrelevant. Recent examples of disruptive technologies include e-commerce and ride-sharing.
It is the author's point of view that disruptive technologies are any technologies that disrupt the current paradigm of human operations. This alters current technological systems with some form of improvement.
This is why it might be better to label it Evolutionary Technology. Saying "evolutionary technology" just doesn't have the same effect though on the human psyche though does it?
The Origin of Disruptive Technology and Innovation
The domestication of animals, the discovery of steel, the creation of gunpowder, the use of steam power, the ability to harness electricity and the invention of the internet. These are just a few disruptive technologies that have shaped our lives in the present day. Be prepared to delve in deeper into why disruptive technology and innovation shape our everyday lives.
As mentioned above a disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry. Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen coined the term disruptive technology.
I would like to extend this definition further as a technology that affects the way people live directly in everyday life. The more adoption that occurs for a certain technology the more the technology is disruptive to the way society operated before its implementation. A great example of this is the use of gunpowder in warfare.
When gunpowder was no longer a Chinese secret in the 13th century and spread across Europe, the societies that adopted this technology quickly became superpowers of warfare. There were many precursors of technology before gunpowder started to spread across Europe involving trade, but we will stay focused on the effects of these technologies rather than the evolutionary tree that developed over time between cultures.
A great book that explores the cultural differences in technology is by Ph.D. Jared Diamond called "Guns, Germs, and Steel."
Here is a video for your viewing pleasure on YouTube.
The Most Disruptive Technology
From a business standpoint, the adoption of the internet has completely disrupted the way people consume media content. Newspapers, magazines, and even television have become greatly affected by the advent of the internet. Do these large well-established companies feel the internet is disruptive to there industry? You better believe they do!
However, the impact the internet has had on society is limited to those who have access to phone and power. This is something to consider in evaluating how disruptive technology is.
It's hard to say what the most disruptive technology engineered is. That is a very subjective question to pose with some serious biases influencing the answer. It is in the opinion of the author that the most disruptive technologies have to meet certain criteria.
The adoption criteria are met when a certain number of the populace begins to use technology in their lives.
The amount of free time and change it creates in peoples lives.
How long the technology will last in civilization before it becomes obsolete.
These 3 criteria will be the basis for how we rank a disruptive technology.
Technological Importance according to Rank
Our first example to look at is probably the most overlooked technology to the western ideology of what technology is. It is a technology known as agriculture and farming. This technology has given rise to creating more free time, more food abundance for survival purposes, and created more easement to peoples lives than almost any other technology in existence today.
Considering there are 3 absolute necessities for the survival of human life (food, shelter, & water) it should be no surprise that farming technology tops the list. Is there anything that could possibly come before these essential technologies on importance? If you can think of one, leave a comment below and let me know.
Though it is not a popular topic, I feel it's important to discuss scientifically the means in which we exchange our human energy/time as a species. Why is it and important topic one may ask themselves? The way in which we allocate our time/energy and influence others with their time and energy is the fundamental structure of human advancement. Socio-Economics is an applied science with a technological design that precedes many other technological advancements. What do I mean by this in laymen terms?
What we believe to be is most important as a society will be what we direct our energy too. It seems quite simple yet how often do we reflect on this fact and how it impacts what we engineer in our everyday life? This may seem spiritual in nature.
The earliest records of an economic civilization show that there came a time when there was a need for exchange equality. Rather than always needing to barter for the goods you needed you could bring your products to a market. This means that if a person who raised chickens had 5 eggs they wanted to bring to market for something they needed like goats milk. They could use an exchange medium like precious metals to trade with a goat farmer who had no use for the eggs they were selling.
That created economic commerce backed by market supply and demand. I know this seems like economics 101 to many readers. However, this is extremely important on how we conduct applied science and engineering.
As we came into the industrial age we started to develop a new system of economics. This new system has come to be known as the Fiat Currency system. A fiat currency is a legal tender issued by the government but it's market value is dependant on the supply issued by central and world banks. Something that is now known as Fractional Reserve Banking. This is almost always done on loan to a country's treasury, according to what a country can produce in a given year, or their GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Doing this has created a debt based economic structure based on credit. Currency is a commodity as a means of exchange but in today's economic structure, it is only backed by trust in a tender.
Digital Money or Economic Disruptor
This is where the next big disruptive technology enters. Unless you have been living under a rock, you might know what cryptocurrency is. For those rock folks, it's a digital currency backed by computational hash (computer processing). It is immutable, trustless, has open-ledgers, and currently un-hackable. At the heart of cryptocurrency is Blockchain Technology.
In many cases, blockchain technology and cryptocurrency are decentralized in Peer to Peer networks. This is something that can be a game-changer for world economics. The most well known of cryptocurrencies being Bitcoin with the ticker of BTC. Which was likely created by an anonymous person(s) to decentralize institutional banking.
As mentioned above that the socio-economic engineering design is what determines industrial markets, technological accessibility, and the ability to fund technological projects. The most Disruptive Technology we will see in the next 10 years will likely be from blockchain technology.
Why Blockchain Technology?
Many might expect AI (Artificial Intelligence) to top the list. While it may play a huge role in human technological evolution, it will create many problems economically. It's is also estimated to be 20-30 years away before it will replace the majority of our day to day activities.
Another thing to consider in the implementation of AI, Fusion Technology, Autonomous Vehicles, etc. Is that they have the potential to impact the world economy in negative ways. Creating more division before rich and poor depending on how these technologies are released be it in the private or public sectors.
This is why blockchain technology should be one of the first disruptive technology steps to take. Creating a Cryptocurrency Bartering Network, using new blockchain technologies like Atomic Swaps and Smart Contracts, can help to detour centralization of power. There is also the ability to create trustless voting systems to democratically bring power to the common majority of people.
Innovative Technology or Disruptive Technology?
It is in my opinion if we would best direct our efforts into engineering a sustainable socio-economic structure. One that encourages the development of progressive technologies. We would no longer have the need to label something as a disruptive technology. We would simply call it an innovative technology.
What about you? What do you think about disruptive technology? Let me know in the comments below or join our community and start a conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article.