Technological Disruption or Transformation: For a paradigm shift
The concept of “disruptive innovation” was introduced by Clayton M. Christensen in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma. Alongside this, “paradigm”, has taken on a broader connotation in the philosophy of science since Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Despite the unprecedented speed and amplitude of technological innovation, the term “disruption” has given way to the word “transformation”. This is not only a question of semantics, but a position that fundamentally shapes the questions we ask.
“Transformation” means that change is conceived of as a gradual process, an evolution rather than a revolution. Thus, we primarily think about the consequences of technology on our current socio-economic organization, on our businesses, on employment or on today’s lifestyles. The human being, instead of being at the heart of the debate on technological transformation, is cast out towards the periphery. They then have little influence when facing challenges involving finance, productivity and competitiveness. When we hear the word “transformation”, we imagine training programs being set up, wealth being redistributed and other measures for employees whose jobs will be replaced or deeply changed due to technology.
“Disruption”, on the other hand, forces humans to imagine comprehensive prospective visions that would then determine the purposes of technologies and the contributions they would make. It allows for a radically different style of debates and proposals on systems of socioeconomic organization. Here, we question our value system, our vision of "greater well-being" in the world. Examples of this include Alain Touraine's proposal for an ethical-democratic movement or the OECD's Better Life Index.
For want of meaning, we carry out “transformation” in reaction to technological breakthroughs. We thus limit our foresight to potential futures geared towards technological progress. Using complexity as an excuse, we ask technological experts an endless stream of questions, while doing very little with the alternative ways of thinking and proposals offered by sociologists or philosophers, which are based on fundamental values.
A disrupted paradigm and a revolutionized worldview, with the societal intention to promote “greater well-being” in the world, would thus give meaning and purpose to technological innovation.
Rather than adapt the world to new technologies, let’s harness them to reinvent it
Catherine Simon / 31/01/2019