No More Disruptors Please

October 22, 2022 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: philosophy.

It’s been funny over the past decade or so where the word “disruptor” has been used.

disruptor

/d?s?r?pt?/

noun

a person or thing that interrupts an event, activity, or process by causing a disturbance or problem.
“the film follows his evolution from Hollywood star to political disruptor”

One classic example has been in the fad of boasting about “disruptive technology” or “disruptive innovation”. Innovation and new technologies are always expected to make changes to life, society, and the world. This has been drummed into us all since school, where we learned about the use of the horse and cart to carry cargo, then the advent of the canals, which were usurped by the railways, and then the motor vehicle. Each subsequent improvement has disrupted the previous status quo.

More modern technologies have moved even quicker. The computer, once purely mechanical, evolved through valves to silicon chips, and in the last 50 years, miniaturisation of electronic circuitry is ubiquitous. We all have mobile phones with more computing power than the Apollo space missions, and our 72″ flat screen TVs have internet connectivity, apps for YouTube and Amazon Prime, with plugin storage through USB and solid-state hard-drives, to record programmes, upload photos, etc.

Arguably, these innovations have all made our lives better.

Genuine Disruptors

Yet there have been a wave of advances that have been genuinely called disruptive innovation.

Take the ride-hailing app Uber for example. Before the likes of Uber, there was the mini-cab number on a business card by the public phone in the pub or supermarket. Now, there’s an app on our mobile phones where we should be able to get it out of our pocket, and find the next available car, get a time, a price, track it, and get a notification when they’re just about to arrive. That made our lives better, right?

Information has migrated from being “out there somewhere” to being almost infinitely accessible. We can all now see what our local MPs voted for, the reputation of a local business, or view videos we missed on Top of the Pops in 1976 online. With taxi services, where we once had individual local firms, we see in the Uber system all vehicles connected and networked. Sophisticated algorithms work out supply and demand, and have driven down the cost of fares.

Yet the disruptive tech here has “shaken up” the industry in the form of upsetting demand for traditional taxi drivers’ services, driving down wages, impoverishing drivers, enriching bosses, risking safety, and other scare stories we’ve seen since Uber’s inception in 2009.

I personally had a friend who was a taxi driver, so I always used his services. I preferred to put money in his hand than to an anonymous corporation based in a faraway country, he says, typing on his Taiwanese laptop, with his German car parked outside.

Elon Musk is a disruptor. Whilst PayPal was a positive disruption, changing for the better how we move money digitally, and Tesla is welcome if it makes the electric car more widespread, Space-X I’m not so sure about. What is it about a personal crusade to get into space that will make the world a better place when it’s ravaged by poverty, inequality, and conflict? As for Twitter, his disruption there can not be for the wider good, surely?

Disruptive Fanbois

I understand the love of technology, but not of disruption. Afterall, the words “disruption” and “disruptive” have been given far too much of a positive spin, just like skaters coined the phrase “sick”.

disruptor

/d?s?r?pt?/

noun

a person or thing that interrupts an event, activity, or process by causing a disturbance or problem.
“the film follows his evolution from Hollywood star to political disruptor”

The new use of the word disruption is almost like putting a positive spin on a negative concept whilst simultaneously and  surreptitiously  revelling in its actual darker forces. Very much akin to many modern thinktanks – many have innocuous or positive sounding names whilst also serving interests that do not benefit broader society. Take The  European Research Group for instance – When I conduct research it always has a positive outcome. The ERG’s findings have steered the UK into a disastrous Brexit. Leaving the EU has been disruptive, but not in the way 52% of the population who voted for it were led to believe.

But back to disruptive on a more personal note…

One of my friends is a school counsellor and she deals with  children who need extra help. I’ve seen her and her colleagues have to deal with the kids who “kick off” in class, and it’s not very nice, for everyone involved – the teachers, staff, the well-behaved children, and the poor soul who disturbed the peace in the first place – He’s one of the ones who are genuinely disruptive.

So whilst we’ve tried to normalise and make disruption acceptable, quite often it is not.

Going back to the app on your phone, it’s truly innovative that we can now get a cab without searching for a business card, or looking up a phone number online. The app has everything in one place. As for saving money on a fare, that’s great too, but at what cost? It’s quick and easy to “book an Uber” but if saving money on that journey deprives a life-long cabbie of a decent wage and putting money back into the local economy, whilst cutting prices to funnel profits to shareholders in a San Francisco company, then you have to think of the longer-term consequences.

Just as the beat of the wings of a butterfly can cause a storm on the other side of the world, so the technological advances in simple taxi services can also have a non-tangible effect that is not immediately seen and felt. This is why people object, not because they’re negative, sceptical, or cynical, but because they’re more visionary and intelligent, they’ve thought things through,

Modern Day Political Disruption

Paul Young once sang that “everything must change”, and so the march of time continues. Everything changes all the time and at different rates, some we see and feel, others not so much. A lettuce can wilt in the vegetable box, and become unusable after a week or two. The moon is slowly drifting away from the earth, but at 3.8cm a year, it will take 50 billion years before it breaks out of its orbit.

Both these examples have an effect on us to varying degrees but the recent Truss-led Conservative government has had immediate and deeply-negative results.

Boris Johnson was quite popular, voted in on a large majority, and giving him a mandate to do all the things he promised, like “getting Brexit done”, whatever that was supposed to mean. He was a pro-European, once upon a time, as was Liz Truss, but then something turned him, and I’m not convinced it was pure compassion for all of the British people.

Ultimately, Johnson seemed to be an alright sort of guy with lots of charisma, a bit of a buffoon.

But when you look at his track record of multiple affairs and broken marriages, favours, money, and titles to those who appease and even leverage his narcissistic personality, his privileged and entitled upbringing – Boris Johnson has followed an immoral and unethical path, and worst of all, he’s gotten away with. Worse still is that people have allowed him to get away with it.

Boris Johnson has been a disruptor.

He’s set the precedent that it’s OK to be in a position of power, to be a public figure, and be unfaithful to your string of wives and lovers, to abandon his children, to pursue his personal wants, to become the most powerful politician in the country, and yet set and break laws, allow unnecessary deaths, lie to Parliament, the country, the Queen, and the public. He’s certainly been disruptive.

As for Liz Truss, she has been even more disruptive. After coming to office on the 5th September (IIRC) her Chancellor’s “mini budget” of 23rd September tanked the economy – in just 18 days since she took over! Her tenure has been so disruptive that she tanked the pound, drove up the cost of government borrowing, sparked a £20 billion injection form the Bank of England to prop up the bond markets, lowered the country’s credit rating, and caused panic in the mortgage sector, driving up repayments at a rate that will only see pain and defaults more often.

That’s being kind too, as the UK has been the laughing stock of foreign commentators, losing the country’s status as a sound and stable nation.

She’s sacked Kwasi Kwarteng, installed Jeremy Hunt, who reversed the majority of her reforms” and then resigned because she was unable to push through her plan to be disruptive at a time when the last thing this nation needs is more disruption.

No more disruptors, please!


Paul Mackenzie Ross is a regular guy with no political allegiances*, however, he does not like the way this country has been run for the past 12 years and knows it’s time for change.


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