I continue to hear the word "disruption" used in a cavalier manner. It's especially funny coming from older white males who clearly have no fear of disruption in their lifetimes, and who use the term in an attempt to sound relevant and important. Yet, it is beginning to strike me as a tasteless use of language in an era like ours, akin to exhorting people to force change by "burning the ships" while you're in the halls of a hospital's burn unit.
Social media and big data have been truly disruptive, but at more profound levels than anyone intended or anticipated. The disruption we were supposed to see was the displacement of dinosaurs, monopolies, and hegemonies. Instead, we have disruption of civil society, peaceful coalitions, and economic fairness.
I've recently been reading Clinton Watts' new book about his experiences watching ISIS use Twitter and Facebook to rise and thrive, all while those platforms remained untouched (or even profited) by the consequences of what they enabled. As Watts steps you through the inflection points these platforms enabled, it becomes all the more outrageous that they continue to behave as Silicon Valley darlings despite having been "disruptive" of lives, societies, and entire regions of the world.
Yet, some of us continue to talk of disruption as if it is something desirable. Perhaps it's time instead to start talking about fixing what's been broken. Where is the social platform that doesn't exploit data, enable terrorism, and contribute to social isolation and polarization? Where is the social platform that actually makes people less lonely, angry, and unequal?
Our society needs to be fixed, not disrupted. In fact, to fix things, the traditional disruptors -- who have quickly become the monopolists and powerful -- need to be displaced and replaced. We need to sideline the disruptors. They are doing far too much damage left unchecked.
It's time to repair and rebuild.