Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, The Economy, And The World

Jeremy Rifkin presents us with his vision of a third industrial revolution that is totally unlike the previous two.

"In the coming era, hundreds of millions of people will produce their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories and share it with each other in an “energy Internet,” just like we now create and share information online. The democratization of energy will bring with it a fundamental reordering of human relationships, impacting the very way we conduct business, govern society, educate our children, and engage in civic life."


So states Jeremy Rifkin, a futurist. Most people have only considered two industrial revolutions.  The first one occurring in the late 17th century and extending to the early 20th century, and the second one beginning in the mid 20th century being also called the information age.  These are subjective human visualizations for historical events that affected the societies of the world, but they can be useful.  Rifkin gives us his overview of these historical epochs and their characteristics in terms of how consciousness was changed:
All forager-hunter societies were oral cultures, steeped in a mythological consciousness. The hydraulic agricultural civilizations were organized around writing and gave rise to the world’s great religions and theological consciousness. Print technology became the communication medium to organize the myriad activities of the coal- and steam-powered First Industrial Revolution two hundred years ago, and led to a transformation from theological to ideological consciousness during the Enlightenment. In the twentieth century, electronic communication became the command-and-control mechanism to manage a Second Industrial Revolution based on the oil economy and the automobile. Electronic communication spawned a new psychological consciousness. Today, distributed information and communication technologies are converging with distributed renewable energies, creating the infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution and paving the way for biosphere consciousness. We come to see our species, in all of its diversity, as a single family, and all the other species of life on Earth as our extended evolutionary family, living interdependently in a common biosphere.
To Rifkin, this third industrial revolution will be made of five supporting "pillars."  They are:
  1.  Shifting to Renewable Energy
  2. Transforming the building stock of every continent into micro-power plants to collect renewable energies on site
  3. Deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies
  4. The use of Internet technology to transform the power grid of every continent into an energy-sharing intergrid that acts just like the Internet
  5. Transitioning the transport fleet to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell electricity in a snart continental interactive power grid
Rifkin defines the critical two parts to any economic revolution that has occurred in history,
...the great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. New energy regimes make possible the creation of more interdependent economic activity and expanded commercial exchange as well as facilitate more dense and inclusive social relationships. The accompanying communication revolutions become the means to organize and manage the new temporal and spatial dynamics that arise from new energy systems.
So the interaction between energy and communication systems produce new paradigm shifts. Rifkin estimates that this new revolution will be in full force by the year 2040 or 2050, depending on certain factors.  He sees this third industrial revolution as the revolution of end any other revolutions of an industrial nature.
The Third Industrial Revolution is the last of the great Industrial Revolutions and will lay the foundational infrastructure for an emerging collaborative age. The forty-year build-out of the TIR infrastructure will create hundreds of thousands of new businesses and hundreds of millions of new jobs. Its completion will signal the end of a two-hundred-year commercial saga characterized by industrious thinking, entrepreneurial markets, and mass labor workforces and the beginning of a new era marked by collaborative behavior, social networks, and boutique professional and technical workforces. In the coming half century, the conventional, centralized business operations of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions will increasingly be subsumed by the distributed business practices of the Third Industrial Revolution; and the traditional, hierarchical organization of economic and political power will give way to lateral power organized nodally across society.
It must be said that Rifkin views this revolution as a "natural" one. This natural approach he puts in juxtaposition to the present way in which our society is structured.
Today, 24/7 electricity illumination, round-the-clock Internet communication, jet travel, shift work, and a myriad of other activities have dislodged us from our primordial biological clocks. The sun and the changing seasons have become far less relevant to our survival—or at least we thought that was the case. Our increasing reliance on a rich deposit of inert stored sun, in the form of carbon-based fuels, created the illusion that our success on Earth was more dependent on human ingenuity and technological prowess than on nature’s recurring cycles. We now know that’s not so. The imposition of artificial production rhythms—especially the institutionalization of machine efficiency—has brought great material wealth to a significant portion of the human race, but at the expense of compromising the Earth’s ecosystems, with dreadful consequences for the stability of the Earth’s biosphere.
So how will this third industrial revolution change this?  How will it be in harmony with the environment?
The Third Industrial Revolution brings us back into the sunlight. By relying on the energy flows that cross the Earth’s biosphere—the sun, wind, the hydrological cycle, biomass, geothermal heat, and the ocean waves and tides—we reconnect to the rhythms and periodicities of the planet. We become re-embedded in the ecosystems of the biosphere and come to understand that our individual ecological footprint effects the well-being of every other human being and every other creature on Earth.
This coming revolution Rifkin sees as overturning many now cherished notions in our society.  the idea of private property, long thought to be an essential factor in any civilization and viewed as foundational to any liberal democracy, may not be as foundational to human relationships as some may think it is. 
A generation growing up on the Internet is apparently unmindful of the classical economic theorists’ aversion to sharing creativity, knowledge and expertise, and even goods and services in open commons to advance the common good. The classical economists would regard such economic arrangements as inimical to human nature and doomed to fail for the simple reason that human beings are primarily selfish, competitive, and predatory, and would either take advantage of the goodwill and naïveté of their peers, and freeload on the contribution of others, or would go it alone with a far better payoff.
He goes on to elaborate, 
In the new era, the notion of property, which placed a premium on acquisition of material things in markets and the right to exclude others from their enjoyment, is giving way to a new concept of property as the right to enjoy access in social networks and share common experiences with others. Our ideas about property are so wedded to the traditional notion of ownership and exclusion that it’s hard to imagine that there is an older property right individuals enjoyed over the centuries—the right of access to property held in common.
One should not misunderstand Rifkin's use of the term "industrial revolution."  This third one will be nothing like the other two.  This industrial revolutions will not produce new "satanic mills."  Indeed this revolution according to Rifkin will bring in a new utopic relationship between man and his ecosystem. 
Third Industrial Revolution brings us back into the sunlight. By relying on the energy flows that cross the Earth’s biosphere—the sun, wind, the hydrological cycle, biomass, geothermal heat, and the ocean waves and tides—we reconnect to the rhythms and periodicities of the planet. We become re-embedded in the ecosystems of the biosphere and come to understand that our individual ecological footprint effects the well-being of every other human being and every other creature on Earth.
He views this revolution as bringing to en end neoclassical economic theory, even the end of work as we now know it.  We provide an excellent video presentation by Rifkin of his thesis for those of you who like to hear and see rather than read.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/1a0_M3bEB1s.


We cannot possibly explain the entire book.  We heartily recommend it.  Is it a perfect vision?  Of course not.  But is it one that is in accord with the latest understanding of how our architecture must serve to undo the damage we have done to the environment and must go beyond sustainability?  We think so. There is a short discussion as to how robotics will take the place of much of human labor in its traditional form.  There is a view towards the mass upshifting of great numbers of the population being re-employed into the nonprofit sector in a bid to achieve something that no other industrial revolution has been able to bring mankind - happiness.  This book is intended as a manifesto towards a new world.  In that area, it accomplishes its goal.

We would hope that this book will be received as a contribution towards a common goal - a clean world where man lives in harmony with nature.  All of us that share the view that things in our world must change radically for us to survive must work together.  It is of no use to subdivide ourselves into ever smaller groups of ideologues.  There is a world to save!   

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

1 Shifting to Renewable Energy
QUESTION TO YOU SIR:-- 'tell me one single renewable that can be manufactured without massive GOBS of crude oil, or coal. a single data point will do-just one. Uno. Just one . a single factory making renewable systems that runs entirely on energy created from its OWN product ? "

2Transforming the building stock of every continent into micro-power plants to collect renewable energies on site
[i think by 'renewable' you actually mean 'natural fluxes']
QUESTION TO YOU SIR:--how do we do it with a positive EROI ? any one single example ? [hoee you know what EROI and 'flux' are ]

3Deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies.
QUESTION TO YOU SIR:-- Which has more 'hydrogen' in it - a gallon of gasoline or a gallon of ACTUAL liq. hydrogen ? Ans: a gallon of gasoline. so if you want to store energy, forget hydrogen. did you know that Hydrogen is the 2nd worst way to store energy [the WORST is compressed gas]

4The use of Internet technology to transform the power grid of every continent into an energy-sharing intergrid that acts just like the Internet
QUESTION TO YOU SIR:-- how many utility grid-SCADA loops run on the internet after Nov2010 ?
do u know about Stuxnet and the ability of govts to remote assasinate power plants whose PLCs are on the Net ?
does you know what a massive effort most grid utilities are putting in to air gap their PLCs [after stuxnet] ? no one wants their SCADA on the net anymore. its an idiotic thing to do. comments plz ?

5Transitioning the transport fleet to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell electricity in a snart continental interactive power grid
QUESTION TO YOU SIR:-- forget fuel cells - that is too damm hard.
simple question - how many Decades will it take to mfg the Li battries needed to replace one TENTH [only] of the current world fleet ? Ans. 20. decades. TWENTY DECADES!
follow-on question 1 -- how much crude oil needed to mine that much Li ? any idea ?
follow-on question 2-- who pays for this transitiipn ? 'USA is broke, so is Europe. of all countries in the world, India alone has 18 thousnad tonns of gold. and indians all live in villages, and rear cows. they hate technology anyways. so who exactly pays for your grand dreams ?

Anderson said...

The third industrial revolution by Perkins makes sense to read, since he provides valuable arguments and discusses the aspect from various aspects. It is worthy indeed.