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Ion's Blog
Thinking seriously about not-so-serious things | Searching for substance in a superficial world

The Great Disruption

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What the global economy, Blockbuster, going solo, hook-up culture, asynchronous intimacy, the Apple Maps app and ‘Homeland’ all have in common.

We live in a world of broken models, columnist Robert Samuelson noted recently in The Washington Post. In his essay, Samuelson speculated that “to understand why world leaders can’t easily fix the sputtering global economy, you have to realize that the economic models on which the United States, Europe and China relied are collapsing.”

Samuelson confined his analysis to macroeconomics, but he's actually on to something. We find ourselves in a world turned upside down. The Greatest Generation had to survive the Great Depression; our generation, I believe, is being asked to navigate (rather than survive) the Great Disruption.

Let me explain. It's now conventional wisdom that companies from Blockbuster (RIP) to Borders (RIP) have seen their traditional business models disrupted. In the case of the former, their video stores were challenged by the advent of DVDs by mail, courtesy of Netflix. In the case of the latter, the transition from retail to e-commerce (and, soon, e-books) pioneered by Amazon hastened Borders’ demise. Even 'new' companies like BlackBerry (RIP soon?) are seeing their once mighty technological advantages being leapfrogged in the space of months, not years. It’s often said that “a week is a lifetime in politics.” This is increasingly true about business. For almost every company, the world as they knew it no longer exists.

But what if that described the rest of “life”, as well? What if our 'living models' are being disrupted today as much as business models have been? This is exactly what's happening, only it may not be as obvious.

From the way we live, date, mate and marry, traditional pillars of society are being transformed.

Taken together, it seems that we’re living through a revolution just slow enough to slip by almost unnoticed, but significant enough to upend our world.