Rifkin and the 4 good news from the future


And what if one day we no longer have to pay for most of the goods that make up the economic life of our society? If in short, the future was … Free?

The economist Jeremy Rifkin asked himself this question and gave himself an answer (in the affirmative) in his latest book, The marginal cost society zero, where a world is no longer divided between producers and consumers, but made up of prosumers (producers-consumers) connected to each other through the network and able to produce and share (clean) energy, goods and services and study in virtual classrooms. All at no cost. That is the (almost) demise of the capitalist economy in favor of a sharing economy.

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Utopia? In order not to be dismissed as a dreamer, Rifkin has filled the book with examples that show how his vision of the future actually rests on solid foundations. The transformation of capitalism into a social and collaborative economy, according to him, is already underway, and one must be blind not to see it. "If 25 years ago - he writes - I told you that, within a quarter of a century, a third of humanity would have relied on large global networks made up of hundreds of millions of individuals, through which to exchange audio, video and texts, and that the set of world knowledge would have been accessible from a mobile phone, that each person could expose a new idea, present a product or convey a thought to a billion people at the same time, and that the cost of this operation would be next at zero, you would have shaken your head in disbelief. Today all this is reality ".

But in practical terms, if Rifkin were right, what would this mean for us? At least four good news, even if it would take us a couple of generations to get there.

1. Energy. According to Rifkin, 25 years and most of the energy used to heat our homes and factories, to operate electronic devices and power the car will be almost free: the long run of renewable energy can only end up so. In the world, the economist writes, there are already "Several million pioneers, who have transformed their homes into micro-power stations capable of collecting renewable energy on-site". At costs close to zero.

Image Jeremy Rifkin: in his latest book, The society with zero marginal cost, describes the paradox that led capitalism to greatness, but which now threatens the future: many goods and services are becoming practically free and abundant. | Andreas Pein / Laif / Contrasto

2. 3D printing. Today, there are hundreds of start-ups that focus on 3D printing. They manage to manufacture products at significantly lower costs than in the past. And - considering the giant steps taken by 3D printing in recent years - Rifkin is optimistic: «These printers are already being used to produce jewelery, aircraft parts, human prostheses and more. And there are inexpensive printers, accessible to those who, as a hobby, wish to manufacture entire objects or parts of them themselves ".

3. The school. Today we can follow lessons and courses online at prestigious universities from home. In the future this kind of possibility could multiply. And much sooner than might be expected. "If I then say - writes Rifkin - that all over the world students without access to higher education levels will find themselves suddenly able to follow the lessons of the most eminent academic personalities on the planet and to see them formally recognized your commitment, all for free?

4. The Internet of things. The intelligent infrastructure of the Internet of things is at the base of this revolution according to Rifkin: cars, houses, means of transport will be spoken through the network and "within 10 years - says the economist - every building in America and Europe, as well as other countries of the world will be equipped with smart meters ". Among other things, according to the economist, this continuous flow of data can be processed and improve energy efficiency and productivity.

Sharing economy. Above all Rifkin, he is convinced that it is destined to increase exponentially the number of people who favor access to possession, the so-called sharing economy. If already today we share information, passages in cars, ideas and beds in the apartment, in ten years we will not be able to do more without it. "And if hundreds of millions of people move most of their economic activity towards sharing, they are destined to change the course of economic history."