In partnership with Tortoise Media we recently hosted our first Disruption Thinkin. We were joined by Lilian Edwards, Professor of Law, Innovation and Society at Newcastle Law School and Taavi Kotka, entrepreneur & first CIO of Estonia to discuss the relationship between tech, disruption and society.

It was a wide ranging discussion, reflecting the breadth and complexity of the topic. Key points were:

Key points we heard from the discussion:

  • Disruption is best viewed as a potential source of creativity and prosperity rather than as an intrinsic threat to the common good and the interests of business.
  • Disruption is not new. It is one of the constants of the human story - as is clear from the respective impact of the printing press, electricity, the automobile and penicillin. What is new is the sheer scale and pace of change.
  • Because the impact of disruption is impossible to predict with any precision. Resilience lies in adaptability, therefore: in systems that are nimble and flexible, able to respond to changes that can be as small as a new version of a software and as huge as a deadly pandemic.
  • A lack of resilience and agility in both society and business, exacerbated by individuals fearing change, and combined with the scale and pace we see today gives rise to a form of moral panic. This feeds the notion of a lawless ‘Wild West’ overwhelmed by anarchic technological change. It doesn't reflect reality. In most cases we have the controls (laws and regulations) in place to regulate the impact of technological disruption. What is lacking is the political and prosecutorial will to enforce them.
  • The Estonian experience, described by Taavi, exemplifies the value of a collaborative culture in which government, business and citizens work together to respond to change. The public trust that is essential to such partnership is nurtured by success: when people can see that their lives are improving, their confidence grows accordingly.
  • Transparency is as important to, and closely related to, trust. At present most data is hoarded by large corporations, and is, in Lilian’s words ‘the new oil… the air you breathe and the water you drink, it's the climate, it’s everything”. It follows that - subject to reasonable respect for commercial confidentiality - data must be shared much more widely.
  • A precondition of all the above is a political and business leadership that truly understands tech and how embedded it now is in every human process. Regrettably, the digital IQ of most senior politicians and business people is low - a clear and present problem as we look to use significant technological disruption or change to trying to navigate our way through the post-pandemic world.
  • In a world of profound volatility, the winners will be those who learn how to adapt, collaborate and approach change with vigorous optimism.