When Disruption Becomes Destruction

Are the Intended Benefits of Disruption Worth the Unintended Consequences?


[ dis-ruhp-shuh n ]


forcible separation or division into parts.

a disrupted condition

Business. a radical change in an industry, business strategy, etc., especially involving the introduction of a new product or service that creates a new market

“Disruption” is one of those sexy words that has come into constant use over the past couple of decades.

And I put my hand up as one of those early adopter types who jumps before the crowd to try the next big thing.

In this way, I’m part of the disruption crew, and help bring about positive change, but I am also guilty of the opposite — of wanton destruction.

OK, that sounds a little dramatic…

Disruption is crucial to society developing, evolving, improving and finding solutions to problems and more broadly the way we live our lives. It’s lifted billions out of starvation and poverty, saved the lives of those who would have died of all kinds of diseases without it, and brought wealth and prosperity to many, or, rather, at least to those lucky enough to live in the developed world.

However, like all evolution, there is a dark side.

Come to the Dark Side

The other side of the disruption coin is the corresponding wave of change to the status quo that wipes out entire industries, product lines, workforces, and even towns and regions.

Take the rise of renewable energy, for example. I am 100% behind the continued expansion of the use of renewables because, well, it just makes sense on every level. From saving the environment from more pollution to ramping up scale, which will lead to even better technology around the industry and better environmental and cost outcomes, it’s a no-brainer.

But tell that to a coal-mining family in one of the many regions around the world where entire communities, towns and regions (states even!) relied on coal extraction for their livelihood and you will be met with a great deal of consternation. These people understandably fear the loss of everything they know, a fear Donald Trump played to at the 2016 election and helped him win as Hillary Clinton went the other way and played to those who favoured this disruption.

Look where that got her (and us).

And then, we have the likes of the FAANGS (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google)and the BATS (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, which owns WeChat and TikTok), and a range of other disruptors like Uber, Tesla, Airbnb, etc.

Look at that list, and if you haven’t used at least three of these companies’ products (I’ve used eight!), I would be highly surprised.

But have you considered that for all the exceptional stuff they bring into your life, there is a whole lot of other stuff they also shuffle out?

Think about it:

  • Using Facebook means you might not use your phone as much to contact friends and family or pay for a subscription to a newspaper because you’re happy getting served up the news Facebook’s algorithms shunts your way.
  • Buying from Amazon means no more trips to the local hardware or grocer or bookstore that rely on locals to keep them afloat.
  • Streaming Netflix means watching less network TV, not wanting/needing DVDs anymore and staying in on a chilly night (or any night) to watch a movie rather than going to your local cinema.
  • Hailing an Uber pushes all those cabbies who bought licenses — often for massive amounts of cash — to the wall, unable to make a living anymore.

I could go on, but you get the drift.

Now, on some level, this is just the cost of disruption and evolution. It’s been happening since the first time some prehistoric type sharpened a bit of rock to kill for food or struck some flint to light a fire.

We cannot and should not stop it.

We can, should and must REGULATE it.

Why We Need Some Regulation

But wait, I hear the disruptors say, the whole point of disruption is the breaking down of existing norms, structures, methods, tech and implementing new big bright shiny things that make life better, so they cannot and must not be regulated.

Which is ostensibly what disruption does — smash structures apart and work outside of what is known to take us somewhere better.

What it ultimately comes down to, however, is a cost-benefit analysis.

Take Uber, for example. This business is going gangbusters and has shifted its core business from ridesharing to food delivery to scooters and bikes. All fun, useful stuff that bring benefits, such as cheaper cab fares, more widespread food delivery and better environmental outcomes (re the scooters and bikes).


The dark side?

Mostly for workers, sadly, who have been shifted from being employed by a company — which must take corporate responsibility for them in terms of wages, insurance, pension and other benefits — to being contractors.

So, while Uber has disrupted several industries to the benefit of consumers (and its shareholders), it has also disrupted several workforces in a dark, dangerous way.

And while perhaps those workers can choose not to work for Uber if being a contractor doesn’t suit them, this underplays the desperation some have to work, even at the expense of their overall work livelihood.

I’m not meaning to make Uber the baddie here — they are just one of many actors (here’s looking at you Amazon, Facebook and Google) that have come close to destroying some industries with the massive disruption they’ve brought.

It’s just important to remember that the next time you order food through Uber or buy a book from Amazon or use Facebook for, well, whatever really, there are real-life, widespread ramifications that go far beyond the simple action of using one of these disruptors, and that ultimately you might be doing more harm than is worth the sugar hit of the initial benefit.



Writer, editor, content dude, digital disruptor. Politics. Arts. Tech. Travel. Food. Film. The Force. Digital Nomad. Citizen of the universe. Coffee. Always.

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Young Apprentice AKA PB

Writer, editor, content dude, digital disruptor. Politics. Arts. Tech. Travel. Food. Film. The Force. Digital Nomad. Citizen of the universe. Coffee. Always.