The Most Disruptive Tech of the 21st Century

Technology advances every day. The latter half of the 20th century saw some ingenious and crucial advancements in consumer tech. The home computer, the internet, cellular phones, video games, the list goes on and on. These are all examples of disruptive tech advancements that changed how an industry works at a base level.

However, at the turn of the 21st century, no one could’ve predicted much things would change in 23 years. The world went from the atomic age to The Jetsons in just about two decades. With that said, here are a few examples of the most disruptive technologies of the last 23 years. 


Smartphones are perhaps the most critical disruptive tech of the 21st century. Their popularization practically enabled, or at least influenced, the other advancements on this list. Though the first “smartphone” came out in the mid-1990s, the first-generated iPhone changed the game forever. 

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Fortune Business Insights valued the global smartphone market at nearly $485 billion in 2022. And the analysis firm expects the market to hit almost $800 billion by the decade’s end. Basic cell phones still exist in 2023, albeit for a highly specific, technologically illiterate market. Nokia and Motorola, once titans of the mobile phone industry, now live in a market dominated by Apple and Samsung.

Whether you’re watching a movie, a television show, or listening to music, in 2023, you will probably stream your digital media. Fortune Business Insights says the video streaming industry is worth nearly $1.7 trillion. Video streaming services such as Netflix and Max are slowly but surely killing the movie theater business. And the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the issue. 

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And the issue is even more dire in the music industry. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, physical media is dying at an alarming rate. Physical album sales made about $1.7 billion for artists in the United States in 2022. However, music streaming services generated $13 billion in revenue and grew by over 7% year-on-year.

Smartphones changed how we interact with technology, but social media changed how we interact with the world around us. From the modest chatrooms and forums of the late 1990s to the “digital worldwide town hall” that is Twitter today. In 2023, social media effects every single aspect of society.

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In 2023, to not have a social media presence is to practically not have a business at all. According to Sprout Social, an estimated 4.89 billion people use social media in some form in 2023. For comparison, Christianity, the world’s largest organized religion, only has about 2.6 billion followers in 2023. 

According to the Pew Research Center, more than seven out of ten Americans use social media on a regular basis. And over 80% of marketing experts say a business’s social media marketing strategy impacts its bottom line.

And social media, and especially TikTok in 2023, drives pop culture. In the modern age, social media quite literally affects every single aspect of our lives. Money cannot properly communicate just how influential and disruptive this advancement is on society. 

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