People Who Use The Term “Disruptor” in Tech Have Absolutely No Idea What They’re Talking About


Photo courtesy of via Christopher Mineses (Link can be found here)

The year is 2017 and of course the industry has once again coined new terms to simplify complex ideas. The new word of the day is “disruptor” and it’s in reference to technologies that are developed for the modern consumer that disrupt the current industry. There are many examples of this, including Uber/Lyft to the Taxi and Rental Car industry, Amazon to the Retail industry, Napster/Apple to the Music industry etc. The exact reason as to where this started is probably known, but I’m far too lazy to research that. The point is, that most people who use this phrase either:

A. Have no idea about technological determinism
B. Have no idea about technological innovation

Let’s explain, technological determinism is an incredibly boring and fancy phrase. However, it’s a pretty simple ideology: that the technology of a society determines the development of it’s societal structure and values. This makes sense if you’re just casually thinking about it and not giving it another thought other than, “most well-developed countries have good technology, that means technology must impact society in such a way that society has to adopt it and move on. ” Which is, in it’s essence, pretty incorrect logic.

Ironically enough, this can all be blamed on one person: Karl Marx. Technological determinism is a major part of Marxian economics that most people believe in today: That’s right, you can call the idiot that uses this word a MARXIST. Why? Because the idea that fast-changing technologies have an all-pervasive effect on human lives can be disproved time and time again. This is why Google Glass with all it’s revolutionary technology ultimately failed, and also why One Laptop per Child is a fairly unsuccessful education story: because societies ADOPT technologies, just as much as technologies AFFECT society. A consumerist-driven market chooses the technologies that it uses and in turn is evolved by the presence and use of the technology.

So what does this have to do with the word “disruptor”? Absolutely everything. There is no such thing as a tech disruptor, because this would imply that society HAD to adopt these technologies so much so that if they didn’t the earth would spiral into never-ending chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth and in fact Airbnb, a commonly-known “disruptor”, hasn’t impacted as much of the hotel industry as everyone expected. This is because although Airbnb is more convenient in a bind, many found that hotels were just as cost-effective, cleaner, and even more accommodating since Airbnb was created. It adjusted well to the oncoming competition, and unlike Block Buster to the growing rise of Netflix, realized that consumers want more personalization and also less responsibility when it comes to making transactions for goods and services. They also innovated into new technologies creating apps with reward programs, viewing new hotel rooms through 360-degree videos, and even expending in-house accommodations and services (spas/restaurants/gym facilities) to better serve public need.

So please, for the love of all that is good in this world, can we please stop using this word?

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