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DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES AND THEIR IMPACTS THROUGHOUT

HISTORY
Fernando Alcoforado*
This article aims to present the impacts of disruptive technologies throughout human
history from the 1st Agricultural Revolution to the 4th Industrial Revolution or the
contemporary Informational or Post-Industrial Revolution. The term “disruption” means
an act of breaking or discontinuing an existing process. A process is called disruptive
when it interrupts, suspends, or deviates from normal or normal operation. When this term
is brought into the technological and corporate context, disruption is treated as a new
business model that comes up with something different and innovative, breaking with
current standards. Basically, when a new technology emerges and provides the emergence
of innovative services or products to the market, causing changing and disruptive effects
on established standards and models, it is considered disruptive.
Disruptive technology is based on the concept of “creative destruction” coined by
Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1939 to explain business cycles. According to
Schumpeter, capitalism works in cycles, and each new revolution (industrial or
technological) destroys the previous one and dominates its market. The term disruptive
technology is a literal translation of the English concept «disrupt» which means to
"interrupt", "destroy" or "collapse" or that which interrupts the normal course which
creates a discontinuity. Not all innovations, however, are disruptive, even if they are
revolutionary. Disruptive inventions are a minority compared to other types of market
innovations. They cannot be confused with improving technologies in terms of
technological development. Disruptive technology is compared to a paradigm shift.
The 1st Agricultural Revolution took place 6,000 years ago BC. For the 1st Agricultural
Revolution to take place, the discovery of seeds, which led to the development of
productive techniques and the specialization of agricultural work, was of fundamental
importance. Seeing how seeds germinated in the soil, growers at that time began selecting
seeds from the best foods, planting one by one in soft, moist soil and getting the first
crops. The use of seeds in agricultural production constituted disruptive technology that
changed the production paradigm of the time.
The 2nd Agricultural Revolution took place in the Lower Middle Ages, which
corresponds to the period between the twelfth and mid-fifteenth centuries. During this
period, there was a set of transformations that occurred in agriculture, from new
techniques and technologies such as horseshoe, crop rotation, plow, creeper etc. With the
improvement of agricultural techniques, surplus agricultural production emerged,
boosted trade, the cities and the bourgeoisie, shaking the pillars of feudalism. This surplus
of agricultural production turned what was produced into "currency", barter. In the Lower
Middle Ages, a new social class emerged: the bourgeoisie. Dedicated to trade, the
bourgeois enriched and boosted the economy in the late Middle Ages. Cities have come
to mean greater job opportunities (MAZOYER and ROUDART, 2008).
The evolution of agricultural productivity in the Lower Middle Ages was very slow.
Relying only on improving the man-made wooden plow and some stone utensils,
centuries passed so that man-made dragging could be replaced by animal force, freeing
man from such hard work. With the emergence and cheapening of the iron, the plow was
improved. The plow is an instrument used to plow (plowing) the fields, turning the soil
in order to decompress it and thus enable a better development of plant roots. There have
been several technical achievements with the iron plow and the development of new ways

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to attach the plow to animals to allow them to be used at full load, and to replace the ox
with the horse as a draft animal. It can be said that the plow was one of the great inventions
of mankind constituting a disruptive technology for allowing the production of increasing
amounts of food and the establishment of stable populations.
The Commercial Revolution began in the 11th century. Currency comes into play,
assuming the position of fundamental element of the economy. It is the end of subsistence
relations and the beginning of the relations of production and exchange that happened
through the markets of cities. By the late Middle Ages, technological innovations began
to appear in Europe. Agricultural production techniques were an innovation acquired in
the late Middle Ages, but expanded in the new period of human history. Along with them
came new accounting techniques suited to the new forms of trade, the intensification of
mining, the new navigation devices, and the improvement of cartography and its
instruments that became disruptive technologies. At the same time, the great navigations
were developing, which allowed greater circulation of goods and so-called spices.
The Commercial Revolution in the Middle Ages was a period of great economic
expansion in Europe that lasted from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries and resulted
in profound transformations in the European economy. Currency became a prime factor
in wealth because business transactions were monetized. Production and exchange were
no longer of subsistence and began to cater to the cities' markets. The Commercial
Revolution was the fruit of the new times lived in Europe because of the transition from
the medieval to the modern period, overseas expansion and mercantilism that includes a
series of economic and political measures, with which kings sought to increase absolutism
and promote the prosperity of the state. Navigation and offshore trade gained momentum
with the construction of new types of vessels and the improvement of cartography and
instruments such as the compass, all of them disruptive technologies because they
promoted profound transformations in the European economy. The world was beginning
to integrate economically.
The 3rd Agricultural Revolution took place in England in parallel with the 1st Industrial
Revolution with agricultural innovations, which was a process that began between the
late 17th and late 18th centuries in England and the Netherlands (United Provinces),
countries with an intense commercial activity. The large English agricultural landowners
increased the size of their land by annexing vacant land, buying low-priced land from
small landowners and resorting to enclosures, which constituted new disruptive
technologies and increased the creation of cattle. They conducted agricultural
experiments on soil productivity and the improvement of animal breeds. Market-oriented
agriculture has enabled landowners to increase production, make profits and invest in new
machines and techniques (MAZOYER & ROUDART, 2008).
The enclosure of land and the raising of livestock led to a decrease in labor requirements.
Many landless peasants and farm labor eventually migrated to the city. Innovations that
have been disruptive technologies in agriculture consisted in the improvement of
instruments and use of the first agricultural machines, the application of the quadrennial
crop rotation system using fertilization of land with animal manure, selection of seeds
and breeding animals, expansion of new, more productive crops, such as potatoes and
maize, increased cultivable area with improved sandy soils, with the addition of clay and
drainage of marshes. New agricultural techniques and greater investment in agricultural
machinery have led to increased market-oriented agricultural production generating
higher profits in agriculture that were invested in the start of the industrialization process.
Profits from agriculture and colonial trade were spent on the development of industrial

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activity and trade, contributing to the growth in the number of banks lending money. The
3rd Agricultural Revolution that took place in England was an important factor in
triggering the 1st Industrial Revolution (SLIDESHARE.NET, 2014).
The 1st Industrial Revolution took place at the end of the eighteenth century in England.
In its course, factories multiplied with the use of new disruptive technologies such as the
steam engine in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, whose development
was remarkable, particularly in the motor sectors of the time, the textile and metallurgy
(BRONOWSKY, 1991). During this period, science entered a constant process of
evolution that triggered a series of new technologies that quickly transformed human life,
especially in the way of producing goods (TEIXEIRA, 2004). Begun in England in 1780,
also called the “age of coal and iron”, the 1st Industrial Revolution was like this called
for having been responsible for profound and radical economic and social
transformations. Although it caused changes not only in industry, but also in agriculture,
livestock, trade, etc., the most profound changes were in the means of production.
Mechanical practice was introduced, with steam and coal machines, wage labor, and
society went from rural to urban
The 1st Industrial Revolution was characterized by two important inventions that
proposed a turnaround in the production and transport sector. Science has discovered the
usefulness of coal as a source of energy and since then they have simultaneously
developed the steam engine and the locomotive. Both were disruptive technologies that
determined the development of the transport of raw materials, people and distribution of
goods, giving a new panorama to the means of moving and producing. The characteristic
transport system is the railroad, in addition to maritime navigation, also powered by coal
vapor energy. One of the first industrial branches to take advantage of the new technology
of the steam engine was textile production with the use of mechanical loom, which before
the 1st Industrial Revolution was developed by hand. On its side, the steel industry
appears, given the importance that steel has in the installation of a technical period
supported by the mechanization of work.
The main feature of the 1st Industrial Revolution was the replacement of craftsmanship
by wage labor and the use of machines. The use of machines in the industries, which that
played great strength and agility powered by coal energy, provided extremely high and
increasing productivity, making the industry an exceptional working alternative. At that
moment thousands of people left the countryside towards the cities. The rapid rural
exodus provoked significant growth in urban centers in much of the European nations
that were carrying out their industrial revolution. Some cities in Europe have increased
their population by three-fold by half a century (ALCOFORADO, 2016).
The 2nd Industrial Revolution took place from 1860 to 1900. The use of steel, the use of
electricity and petroleum-based fuels, the invention of the explosion engine and the
development of chemicals were the main disruptive technologies of this period (SOUSA,
2016). The 2nd Industrial Revolution has its bases in the metallurgical and chemical
branches. In this period, steel becomes such a basic material that it is in it that the steel
industry gets its great expression. The automobile industry assumes great importance
during this period. The typical worker of this period is the metallurgist. The technical and
work system of this period is Fordist, a term that refers to businessman Henry Ford,
creator of the assembly line in his auto industry in Detroit, United States, a system that
became the paradigm of technical regulation and known work throughout the industrial
world. The most characteristic form of automation is the assembly line, created by Ford
in 1920, which introduces standardized production into the industry, in series and mass.

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The characteristic technology of this period is based on steel, metallurgy, electricity,
electromechanics, oil, the blast motor and petrochemicals. Electricity and oil are the main
forms of energy (TEIXEIRA, 2004).
The 2nd Industrial Revolution became known as the “age of steel and electricity”. Among
the disruptive technologies that emerged at that time are Bessemer's process of
transforming iron into steel, which allowed the large-scale production of steel, the
dynamo, which allowed the replacement of steam for electricity, and the internal
combustion engine, which allowed the use of oil on a large scale, creating conditions for
the invention of the automobile and the airplane (ALCOFORADO, 2016). Taylorism
emerged in the early twentieth century as a disruptive management technology created
by Frederick W. Taylor and was a new form of corporate management. Their goal was to
make the worker more productive. Taylor's intention was to make the worker a part of the
company, incorporate him into the machine. Its basic principles were the division of labor,
the standardization of tasks, the separation of planning and execution, the creation of an
easily trainable and replaceable worker. The worker is now controlled by the machine. It
is Taylorism on the basis of Fordism that separates intellectual from manual labor. Taylor
elaborates a system that called the scientific organization of the work that is characterized
by contemplating a specialized, fragmented, intense, routine and hierarchical work
The 4th Agricultural Revolution received the name of Green Revolution having occurred
in the 1960s and 1970s of the twentieth century. The term Green Revolution refers to the
invention and dissemination of new seeds and agricultural practices that have become
disruptive technologies allowing for a dramatic increase in agricultural production in the
United States and Europe and, in subsequent decades, in other countries. The Green
Revolution is a broad program designed to increase agricultural production in the world
through genetic improvements in seeds, intensive use of industrial inputs, mechanization
and reduction of management costs (VASCONCELOS, 2007). The Green Revolution
was a broad program designed to increase agricultural production in the world through
intensive use of industrial inputs, mechanization and reduction of management costs. The
model is based on the intensive use of genetically altered seeds (particularly hybrid
seeds), industrial inputs, fertilizers and pesticides, mechanization, mass production of
homogeneous products and reduced management costs. The Green Revolution is also
credited with the extensive use of disruptive technologies in planting, irrigation and
harvesting as well as production management. This cycle of innovations began with the
technological advances made after World War II
In the expansion of agriculture based on the Green Revolution, there is now a widespread
use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which experts have called “precision
agriculture”. In this context, the debate between biotechnology, GMOs and organic
agriculture is gaining momentum. Biotechnology has long been a disruptive technology
and is a reality all over the planet, as it involves developing techniques and technologies
for the genetic improvement of plant organisms (even animals) to best adapt to a type of
climate, soil, relief, etc., as well as to improve soil management in order to ensure better
crop productivity. Biotechnology has begun to produce laboratory-modified seeds, called
transgenic.
The 3rd Industrial Revolution begins in the 1970s of the twentieth century, based on high
technology, innovative technology (RIFKIN, 2012). The activities become more creative,
require high skilled labor and have flexible hours. It is a technical-scientific revolution
inspired by the Toyota production system whose characteristics were developed by the
engineers of Toyota, the Japanese auto industry, whose method was to abolish the role of

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specialists professional workers to make them multifunctional. The main model of
productive restructuring, the main engine of contemporary productive restructuring,
Toyotism began to be definitively implemented as a disruptive technology in 1962 and
its main characteristic and objective is to produce only the necessary and in the shortest
time. It is just-in-time (SHIGEO, 1996). Unlike Fordism, where production determines
demand, in Toyotism, demand determines production, that is, only what is ordered is
produced, so it is produced faster and better (SILVEIRA JR., 1993).
With the 3rd Industrial Revolution, the work organization undergoes a profound
restructuring. The result is a multi-purpose, flexible, team-based, less hierarchical work
system. Computerized, the set schedule is passed to each plant sector for team discussion
and adaptation using the CCQ - Quality Control Circles that becomes a task rotation
system that establishes the possibility for creative action by workers in the sector. Much
of the management network is eliminated by reengineering. All this technical and work
flexibility becomes more adaptable to the economic system, especially the relationship
between production and consumption, through Just-in-Time that arose from the need to
serve an audience that demanded differentiated products in small quantities, thus making
companies compete with each other to see who was better and faster. With Toyotism
came the end of Fordist mass production.
In Toyotism, there is almost no waste, because only the necessary is produced; Production
is faster and with higher quality and fewer men are needed as almost all machinery is
automatic, robotic. The disruptive technology characteristic of this technical period,
which begins in Japan, is microelectronics, computing, the CNC (Computer Numerical
Control machine), the robot, the integrated telematics (computerized
telecommunications) system, biotechnology. Its base mixes Physics, Chemistry, Genetic
Engineering and Molecular Biology. The computer is the machine of the 3rd Industrial
Revolution. It is a flexible machine, composed of two parts: the hardware (the machine
itself) and the software (the program). The circuit and program integrate under the
command of the chip, which makes the computer, unlike the ordinary machine, a
reprogrammable and even self-programmable machine.
The ongoing 4th Industrial Revolution whose most appropriate name should be
Informational or Postindustrial Revolution because it is not just happening in the
industrial sector, but throughout society. The Informational or Postindustrial Revolution
is based on some common disruptive technologies of our day to day, which are being
leveraged for application in manufacturing and in society at large, which enable the
emergence of intelligent production systems. An intelligent production system is one that
can achieve increased efficiency, autonomously and customizable, to predict failures,
schedule maintenance, adapt to what was unplanned in an agile and versatile manner,
querying historical data, digitizing processes in an environment where systems, machines
and assets are interconnected and secure. The main disruptive technologies in use are
Internet of Things (IoT); 3D printing; Hybrid manufacturing; Simulation systems; Cloud
computing; Sensors and actuators; Big data; Machine connection systems;
Communication infrastructure; Artificial intelligence; and, advanced robotics.
Now we have industry connected and intelligent production systems with everything
connected to the internet (IoT), which has been facilitated by the use of Wireless (which
enables the widespread use of wireless networks), by Virtualization (several computers
linked together by software), the use of the Cloud (all information shared and made
available through the cloud), the assertiveness of Big Data (thousands of data intelligibly
gathered to make decisions easier) and the ability to collect information and generate

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more important data, with the tracking of materials. Today we have industry connected
and intelligent production systems with fully automated production lines with intelligent
machines using disruptive technologies, without human presence, fully connected and
acting autonomously. The 4th Industrial Revolution or Informational or Postindustrial
Revolution is therefore characterized by the application of artificial intelligence to its
productive and management systems. Systems that simulate human intelligence with its
reasoning, problem solving and decision making capabilities - called artificial intelligence
(AI). Artificial intelligence is a set of technologies that work with data manipulation and
impacts all sectors of society.
From the above, it can be concluded that the disruptive technologies present in the 1st,
2nd, 3rd and 4th Agricultural Revolution and in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Industrial Revolution
increased the physical capacity and precision of human activities and, with the 4th
Industrial Revolution or Revolution Informational or Postindustrial, they amplified the
human mind. This latest revolution, precisely because it is based on intelligence
technologies, exponentially widens the differences in the ability to process information
and transform it into knowledge. Examples of the development of disruptive technologies
throughout history confirm Joseph Schumpeter's thesis presented in his book Theory of
Economic Development (Newbrunswich / London-VK: Transation Publishers, 2000) that
the development process is identified with the creation of innovations. For Schumpeter,
development is about using resources differently, about doing new things with them. For
Schumpeter, growth is not development but accumulation of factors of production (land,
capital, labor). On the other hand, innovation concerns new tools, new forms of
organization of productive activity that will allow the optimization of human efforts and
provide increased productivity and accumulation of capital in the agricultural, industrial
and service sectors.
The word innovation was introduced by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in
his book Business Cycles published in 1939. According to Schumpeter, the economy goes
out of equilibrium and goes into a process of expansion with the emergence of some
innovation that, from an economic point of view, alter considerably the previous
equilibrium conditions. This has happened in all economic, agricultural and industrial,
revolutions throughout history. In another of his works Capitalism, Socialism and
Democracy published in 1942, Schumpeter describes the process of innovation as creative
destruction. Examples of innovations that change the equilibrium in the economic
environment include the introduction of a new product or service to the market, the
discovery of a new method of production or marketing of goods, the conquest of new
sources of raw materials, and finally, the alteration of the current economic structure.
In the contemporary era, the strategies of any country to advance its scientific and
technological progress consist essentially of the following: 1) Stimulating scientific and
technological research - In central capitalist countries the basis of any strategy for
technological development is to increase corporate investment. in research and
technological innovation, but in peripheral capitalist countries, it is up to the government
to conduct research by forming a virtuous alliance between the academic community, the
business sector, and the government, and to encourage it in the private sector; 2)
Increasing education spending - No country produces cutting-edge technology with an
illiterate population. Workers who are illiterate or do not understand what they read will
never be able to make microprocessors. This is why it is necessary to invest massively at
all levels of education; 3) Investing in priority areas - Increasing S&T spending in
priority areas for the country's development is another essential measure; 4) Enhance
postgraduate scholarship programs - The training of masters and PHDs is another
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fundamental point for the generation of knowledge. Government grant programs have a
strategic function. It is also important to encourage companies to have postgraduate
incentive programs, financing the specialization of their employees; and 5) Stimulating
patent registration - The number of patents in a country is one of the indicators of its
innovative capacity.
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* Fernando Alcoforado, 79, awarded the medal of Engineering Merit of the CONFEA / CREA System,
member of the Bahia Academy of Education, engineer and doctor in Territorial Planning and Regional
Development by the University of Barcelona, university professor and consultant in the areas of
strategic planning, business planning, regional planning and planning of energy systems, is author of the
books Globalização (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 1997), De Collor a FHC- O Brasil e a Nova (Des)ordem
Mundial (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 1998), Um Projeto para o Brasil (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 2000), Os
condicionantes do desenvolvimento do Estado da Bahia (Tese de doutorado. Universidade de

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Barcelona,http://www.tesisenred.net/handle/10803/1944, 2003), Globalização e Desenvolvimento (Editora
Nobel, São Paulo, 2006), Bahia- Desenvolvimento do Século XVI ao Século XX e Objetivos Estratégicos
na Era Contemporânea (EGBA, Salvador, 2008), The Necessary Conditions of the Economic and Social
Development- The Case of the State of Bahia (VDM Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. KG,
Saarbrücken, Germany, 2010), Aquecimento Global e Catástrofe Planetária (Viena- Editora e Gráfica,
Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, São Paulo, 2010), Amazônia Sustentável- Para o progresso do Brasil e combate
ao aquecimento global (Viena- Editora e Gráfica, Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, São Paulo, 2011), Os Fatores
Condicionantes do Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2012), Energia no Mundo
e no Brasil- Energia e Mudança Climática Catastrófica no Século XXI (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2015), As
Grandes Revoluções Científicas, Econômicas e Sociais que Mudaram o Mundo (Editora CRV, Curitiba,
2016), A Invenção de um novo Brasil (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2017), Esquerda x Direita e a sua
convergência (Associação Baiana de Imprensa, Salvador, 2018, em co-autoria) and Como inventar o futuro
para mudar o mundo (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2019).