There some parallels – that are somewhat weak, but still intriguing – between the impact of (a) mass extinction events on biodiversity and (b) disruptive, transformational technology advancements on jobs, firms, and industries.

“Mass extinctions are events that eliminate “a significant proportion of the world’s biota in a geologically insignificant amount of time.”

Or… “substantial biodiversity losses” that occur rapidly and are “global in extent”.

Using the metaphor of the tree of life: “During a mass extinction, vast swathes of the tree are cut short, as if attacked by crazed, axe-wielding madmen.”

“Species are at a low risk of extinction most of the time… but this condition of relative safety is punctuated by rare intervals by a vastly higher risk…”

“The history of life thus consists of long periods of boredom interrupted occasionally by panic.”

Source: Kolbert (2014) The Sixth Extinction

In comparison, on the current phase of “digital disruption”:

“Just as the steam engine and electrification revolutionized entire sectors of the economy from the 18th century onwards, so the Internet, robotics, artificial intelligence and data analytics are beginning to dramatically alter today’s industries.”

Source: WE Forum article on Digital Transformation

Mass extinction events, as far as I understand, are unforeseen freakish catastrophic events, whereas transformational technology advancements play out over a much slower timeframe, though both affect significantly the diversity of units (organisms or jobs / firms / industries).

I will do more reading and thinking to uncover what appears to be some intriguing parallels between areas of biology – particularly taxonomy, genetics, ecosystems – and the study, in economics and policy, of ‘high-potential firms’ and how they rise above their more modest, less ambitious counterparts.