…about Disruptive Technologies

We believe that the development of technological perspective is an important and much under-represented aspect of the design & technology curriculum in secondary schools. Acquiring technological perspective provides young people with the intellectual tools to decide for themselves how various technologies should be deployed in their society. Engaging young people with the nature of disruptive technologies and helping them consider how these might play out in their future world is, to our minds, an important and effective way of developing technological perspective. There is the associated benefit that such an approach allows the curriculum to keep pace with the technological developments and innovations taking place in the world outside school. We like the view of disruptive technologies as developed by McKinsey Global Institute:

The relentless parade of new technologies is unfolding on many fronts. Almost every advance is billed as a breakthrough, and the list of “next big things” grows ever longer. Not every emerging technology will alter the business or social landscape—but some truly do have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter the way people live and work, and rearrange value pools and lead to entirely new products and services.

To support this thinking, David Barlex, Torben Steeg and Nick Givens are developing a range of materials that support teaching about disruptive technologies. These materials are being made available from the main Disruptive Technologies area of this website.

In our thinking about disruptive technologies we have identified nine that we consider appropriate for the secondary school curriculum and in this part of the website we are collecting ‘stuff’ that provides further information and interesting perspectives about the various technologies. Things that relate to disruptive technologies generally will be gathered on this page. Stuff that is specific to the individual technologies is published separately for each one:


second machine ageThe Second Machine Age – Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew Mcafee, published in 2014 by Norton. A highly influential survey of current technological developments coupled with an exploration of the possible future impacts these technologies may have. The book ends with recommendations for both individuals and policy makers intended to mitigate the harmful consequences of these ‘brilliant’ (we might say ‘disruptive’) technologies.

Four Futures: Life after capitalism by Peter Frase, published in 2016 by  Verso. In this short, accessible and interesting thought experiment Frase explores the interaction of two sets of future uncertainty (whether it will be a future of abundance or scarcity and whether the principle social organisation will be one of equality or hierarchy) and uses these to create four future scenarios that he labels ‘communism’, ‘socialism’, ‘rentism’ and exterminism’. However what he means by these labels may well not be what you understand them to mean. The book is a stimulating read on its own terms, but, just as importantly, it provides a really useful model for how you could go about setting similar set of foresight scenarios for discussion with young people. There is a fuller discussion of the book in the blog post To teach D&T you have to teach economics and politics – really?.

Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity  by R. U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, published in 2015 by Disinformation books. Despite its rather alarming title and the unusual name of one of its authors, this is, in fact, a very informative encyclopaedia that provides very clear and (largely) jargon-free introductions to a wide range of ‘edge’ technologies and movements including most of the technologies we have included in our Disruptive Technologies project (neither Big Data nor the Internet of Things have explicit entries). If you’re planning some work to help pupils develop technological perspective, and you need to ensure that you are up to speed, this book isn’t a bad starting point.



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