The influential economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin looks ahead to a world of virtually free energy and zero marginal cost production, and to a desperate race against climate change.
Most people in the business world are aware of …
(1) the convergence of computer and communications technology,
(2) the shift in energy from fossil fuels to renewables,
and (3) the movement toward self-driving vehicles and robot-driven manufacturing.
But only a few people are thinking intensively about how all these technological changes will fit together — along with changes in advanced manufacturing, water systems, agriculture, healthcare, and education — to generate rapid, widespread growth accompanied by a dramatic reduction in ecological footprint.
This systemic approach to the industrial future is the domain of economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin
He argues, for example, that both capitalism and the fossil fuel industries are hitting limits that stem from the laws of thermodynamics.
Investor-based capitalism, which focuses resources for immediate returns,…
will inevitably be replaced by a more distributed and streamlined network-based capitalism, alongside a sharing economy governed by a high-tech global commons.
According to Rifkin, this new hybrid economic system will be made possible through the provision of solar, wind, and other renewable energy on demand, facilitated by innovations such as the Internet of Things and blockchain.
In the world he envisions, the costs of producing and delivering an increasing array of goods and services will dwindle to near zero, and economies will have to learn to manage abundance — and the use of shared goods and services.
These shifts will happen during the next 40 years or so, he says, unless they are cut short by the exponentially increasing dangers of climate change and species extinction.
Even those who do not agree with Rifkin’s theory that capitalism is in the midst of a fundamental transformation must respect the exponential power of the forces he is tracking.
Intelligent technology, in particular, is expanding at an ever-increasing rate, lowering costs, replacing human labor, tracking human activity, and making many new things possible — which could be the “dark net” of authoritarian surveillance or a broadening of wealth and quality of life.
To read the full interview go to Strategy and Business site here.
RIFKIN: A new technological infrastructure is gradually coming together, brought on by digitization. The process began with the maturation of the communications Internet over the past 25 years.
Now this is converging with a second Internet, this one for renewable energy. It’s a new digital power grid, stretching across continents, which allows millions of people to produce their own wind and solar electricity and send their excess power generation back into the system.
Both of these Internets will converge, during the next decade, with an emerging digitized mobility Internet composed of increasingly autonomous electric and fuel-cell vehicles operated by near-zero marginal cost renewable energy on smart road, rail, water, and air systems.
These three systems will allow people to share communication, energy, and mobility partially in the capitalist market and partially in the emerging sharing economy.