From: Issue 39
Page 3 of 4
Author Jeremy Rifkin explains why Internet technologies represent one of five foundational pillars for a coming Third Industrial Revolution.
RIFKIN: Because it’s distributed and collaborative and scales laterally, it comes in nodally – like Wi-Fi. When Wi-Fi came in, it was problematic if you thought about it. Why would people go from garage to garage sharing their low frequency signals on the crappiest part of the wireless spectrum? But Wi-Fi went nodally house to house, neighbor to neighbor across continents, really quickly. What’s happening here is the Third Industrial Revolution is starting out of Europe and phasing in nodally. We’re seeing now that if Rome sets up a node, it immediately wants to find another node. If it has a surplus of green electricity because of weather conditions, it wants to share its electricity on the energy internet with Munich. Then if Munich has a surplus and Rome has a deficit, it wants to sell it back to them. You have to think that the Third Industrial Revolution likes to run uninhibited across land masses like Wi-Fi nodally until thousands of nodes connect to the ocean’s edge.
CK: Presumably centralized power and energy production, which marked the first and second industrial revolutions, makes this difficult.
RIFKIN: You can’t do it centralized. Even right now, at the end of the Second Industrial Revolution, 23 per cent of the human race has never had electricity. That’s the best you could ever do with a centralized model. And because fossil fuels are only going to get more expensive, and because of climate change, it’s pretty well over (for that approach). But renewables are found everywhere, even though they’ll scale continentally. In this way, whole continents become (self-contained energy) markets.
CK: Germany and the European Union in general seem to be on this path. North America, not so much. Can you explain why?
RIFKIN: President Barack Obama was for a green economy. He spent billions and billions of dollars of stimulus money on the green economy to no avail, because he spent it on isolated projects. He siloed them. He put money in a battery factory over here, financed a solar factory over there. Completely unconnected. He didn’t understand that economic revolutions require communications-energy matrixes to come together to create a nervous system, and then you have to create a whole infrastructure from that. Obama isolated all of these little standalone projects; therefore, no new jobs and no new economy. The challenge is daunting. It requires long-term infrastructure planning, and you have to have a social market model. The EU has the social market model; the U.S. doesn’t.
CK: If the right narrative does begin to emerge in North America, where do you think it will start?
RIFKIN: You’re seeing a de facto continental union emerge off the radar screen between the (Canadian) provinces and the northern states. The northeast states have a very strong formalized partnership with the eastern provinces, and the northwest states with the western provinces. The midwest group is very weak. What’s happening is there is a huge amount of interest in sharing energy, sharing education, sharing work skills and sharing university research institutions across the border. What we’re seeing is an organic intercontinental market starting to form, because remember that nodally the energy likes to flow to the next border. It just makes sense if you’re California, Oregon and Washington that you’re going to want to spread into British Columbia. So I think we’re beginning to see that, which I find very interesting because it’s not on any radar screen.
CK: Big energy utilities and the oligopolies that currently dominate the marketplace must be quite resistant to this vision, since it would spell their demise.