“Everything that can be disrupted will be” was the title of my keynote speech on Social Media Week (2014). In it, I referred to Nicholas Negroponte’s statement “Everything that can be digital will be” (1995, ‘Being Digital’) and combined it with the insights from Joseph Schumpeter’s Theory of Innovation.
Schumpeter, economist and one the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century, argued in his theory – also known as “creative destruction” – that technological innovation is a prerequisite for and the main driver of economic growth.
Today, new technology and subsequent business models aren’t just making some old technology obsolete, it is making most technology obsolete at once. Artificial intelligence, robotics, fintech, biotech, Internet of Things, big data, smart chat bots, programmatic, renewable energy, blockchain, the human genome, self-driving cars, the sharing economy: all testament to the notion that we are moving away from the Age of Information and straight into the Age of Intelligence.
It will be an age in which – according to an Oxford study – 47% of our current jobs will be lost and replaced by pattern recognition, machine learning, deep learning and robotics. Not just because of costs, but also because of quality, flexibility, consistancy and reliability.
But the Age of Intelligence will also liberate us from tedious, repetitive tasks. Creating new opportunities and high demand for more intellectual (IQ) and emotional skills (EQ). In a way that we haven’t seen since the beginning of the industrialisation and the invention of the assembly line.
The Cycle of Innovation and Disruption
I created a simple, yet intuitive model to describe the way innovation and disruption are interrelated. Here is the model:
The model demonstrates that technological disruption is initiated by a need or an opportunity for social innovation. When Sir Tim Berners-Lee tried to solve a communicaton problem that existed between scientist in CERN, who used different computersystems and programs that could not ‘talk’ directly, he unintentionally invented the internet.
Technological innovation makes some previous technology obsolete. The iPhone supplanted (fully, partially or expected) at least 25 products and even some industries. When Bell Labs patented the invention of the transistor they knew it would change the industry: the production of vacuumtubes was destined to be destructed.
Technological disruption almost always leads to a loss of certain jobs and a demise of demand for certain skills. Besides forcing suppliers of replaced technology to look for other opportunities.
When the technological and social disruption requires the intervention of boards or governments, this will lead to social innovation. Companies could re-educate personel, and governments could decide for a universal basic income.
And because humans are always looking for ways to do things better, smarter, faster, cheaper or more durable the spark for the next cycle is continuously fired.