New, disruptive technologies can make existing products and industries irrelevant faster than ever before, but measuring their economic impact has also become tougher.
"The digital age may be more disruptive than previous revolutions as it is happening faster and is fundamentally changing the way we live and work," Citigroup said in a note in February. "Historically, countries have adopted a new technology on average 45 years after its invention … [but there's a] shortening of the lag in adoption, from telephones needing 75 years to get to fifty million users, to Angry Birds taking just 35 days." (Tweet this)
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Companies around the globe face the possibility that not just their products, but also their industries can become irrelevant faster than ever.
For example, while Eastman Kodak arguably first created a digital camera in the mid-1970s, it was able ignore the disruptive technology for decades before the hemorrhaging of its obselete film business pushed the company into bankruptcy in 2012.
More recently, companies can get forced out much quicker, with video-rental giant Blockbuster filing for bankruptcy in 2010, just three years after rival Netflix introduced its streaming service.
No system for measurement
But it isn't entirely clear how to measure the impact that particular disruptive technology had throughout the economy, especially amid declining consumer pricing. Blockbuster typically charged its U.S. customers around $4 per video rental -- unadjusted for inflation and without including travel to and from a bricks-and-mortar location or late-return fees -- while Netflix offers unlimited viewing via its streaming service for $8.99 a month without the need to travel.
"Doing the math" on a former Blockbuster customer who rented more than two movies a month easily adds up to a lower economic contribution, but that doesn't capture any potential added economic value. It also doesn't place a value on eliminating the environmental impact from driving to and from a retail location.