A Disruptive Influence

April 22, 2012

When I was a boy if you were “disruptive” you were sent to the back of the class.

If you were really disruptive you were sent to the Headmaster.

So I’m sometimes nonplussed by the approving way the word “disruptive” is used in the digital circles in which I now move.

Here are two articles from last week which feature the “D” word:

1. “Military Intelligence Gadfly Will Lead All Military Intelligence” From Wired:

One of the most disruptive men in the sprawling U.S. spy community, someone who turned the military’s elite killers into top spies, will likely soon be in charge of all military intelligence.

Here the meaning of “disruptive” seems to be “someone who thinks something is wrong and has new ideas on how to fix it”. These ideas might mean uncomfortabe change for others. But if something really is broken then trying to fix it is not disruptive, it’s constructive. (And why is Flynn called a “gadfly”?)

2. “What Amazon’s Ebooks Strategy Means” by Charlie Stross.

(From his personal blog and via aggregator site The Browser which I recommend if you want a variety of good things to read).

Charlie’s opinions are well informed (evidence based) and up for debate. Towards the end of the article is this:

When you hear a libertarian talking about “disruption” and “innovation” what they usually mean is “opportunities to make a quick buck, however damaging the long-term side effects may be”.

Disruption is like dissonance (noise) in music.

If you do nothing else but dissonance, and worship it as an ideology you’ll end up with unlistenable music. But if it’s just another tool in the box, it might complement other tools to create something better.

As always, “what’s your aim?” and “are your intentions good?” are the important questions.

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One Response to “A Disruptive Influence”

  1. Simon smith Says:

    Gadfly references one Socrates. Self proclaimed ‘gadfly on the arse of the establishment’.
    The other socrates was a gadfly on the arse of many a defence.


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