The Ushering In Of The Third Industrial Revolution And A Zero Marginal Cost Society

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Facing an economic as well as a serious climate crisis, we need a game plan for the future – fast. Jeremy Rifkin lays out how the crisis can be turned around if we tap into and foster the infrastructure of the third industrial revolution.

GDP is slowing all over the world because productivity has been declining for the last 20 years. Employment is high among the young millennial generation. The wealth of the 80 richest individuals today equals the combined wealth of half of the world population. That's the sad situation we find ourselves in after two industrial revolutions. On top of that, the economic crisis today is compounded by an environmental crisis. The water cycles of the earth are shifting,

We have about five more decades to turn things around. How to develop a new, compelling economic vision? There have been at least seven economic paradigm shifts in the past and they share a common catalyst. At a moment in time three defining technologies emerged and converged to create a general purpose technology platform, an infrastructure that fundamentally changes the way we manage power and economic transactions.

Those three technologies are:

1) digital communication technologies

2) new sources of energy

3) new modes of transportations and logistics

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The transformation of these three areas will also define the third industrial revolution. The communication Internet converges with a digitalized renewable energy Internet and a digitalized, automated GPS and soon driverless transport system to create a super-Internet of Things infrastructure. By 2030 we will have ubiquitous interconnectivity, Rifkin predicts.

"This is the third industrial revolution. It started with digitization, robotics and computers and now it's maturing with the Internet of Things over the next 50 years. There is no fourth industrial revolution – only for marketing purposes."

Thanks to this infrastructure, some of the marginal cost will go to nearly zero. This will give rise to the sharing economy. We assumed that the zero marginal cost would affect the communication Internet but it would not move over the firewall to the brick and mortar world. However, the Internet of Things has broken this firewall.

Tapping into this new infrastructure to drive change does not just require the technology but also a change of consciousness. We have to move from looking at single product lines and business silos to see ourselves as part of the big picture. While Rifkin is not a technological optimist, he has hope for the millennial generation as they are already growing up in a sharing economy, thinking of themselves rather as part of a community than being autonomous individuals and being aware of their ecological footprint.