From: Issue 39
Author Jeremy Rifkin explains why Internet technologies represent one of five foundational pillars for a coming Third Industrial Revolution.
American economist and author Jeremy Rifkin considers the World Wide Web, and more broadly, the Internet, as an essential component of a future economic order called the Third Industrial Revolution, described in his latest book of the same name. There are five pillars that must be laid down before this new industrial revolution can be fully realized, he says. In no particular order, four of them are: 1) a shift to renewable energy; 2) conversion of building stock into micro-power plants; 3) deployment of energy storage technology in every building and throughout all infrastructure; and 4) converting the global transportation fleet into plug-in and fuel-cell vehicles that can buy and sell electricity via a smart and interactive power grid.
But the final pillar – the connectivity offered by the Internet and accessibility offered via the web – is arguably the most important. “The Third Industrial Revolution is a new convergence of communications and energy,” Rifkin explained in a recent chat with Corporate Knights editor-in-chief Tyler Hamilton. “This fundamentally changes the distribution of power and our relationship to energy and resources. And, of course, the Internet is a big part of this.”
Below is an edited excerpt from that discussion:
CK: Why are the web and Internet so essential to the emergence of the Third Industrial Revolution?
RIFKIN: It’s distributed and collaborative, and it scales not top down but to lateral power. So what’s interesting is you have 2.2 billion people out there who can now connect and send their own video and text each other with more distributed and collaborative potential, and we did that in (only) 25 years. Now we see the Internet merging with a new energy regime, which by nature is distributed energy. It’s a perfect fit.
CK: How so?
RIFKIN: Distributed energies are found in every square inch of the biosphere: the sun, wind, geothermal heat under the ground, agricultural and forestry residue and waste, ocean tides and waves, small hydro and garbage. These energies are literally found in some frequency and proportion everywhere. You cannot run a continental economy on centralized wind, solar and geothermal parks. It’s just not enough. But in the European Union alone we have 191 million buildings – homes, offices, factories. The goal is to convert every single building in the existing stock to be at least a partial micro-power plant.