Synopses & Reviews
In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, New York Times
bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin describes how the emerging Internet of Things is speeding us to an era of nearly free goods and services, precipitating the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons and the eclipse of capitalism.
Rifkin uncovers a paradox at the heart of capitalism that has propelled it to greatness but is now taking it to its death—the inherent entrepreneurial dynamism of competitive markets that drives productivity up and marginal costs down, enabling businesses to reduce the price of their goods and services in order to win over consumers and market share. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing additional units of a good or service, if fixed costs are not counted.) While economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring marginal costs to near zero, making goods and services priceless, nearly free, and abundant, and no longer subject to market forces.
Now, a formidable new technology infrastructure—the Internet of things (IoT)—is emerging with the potential of pushing large segments of economic life to near zero marginal cost in the years ahead. Rifkin describes how the Communication Internet is converging with a nascent Energy Internet and Logistics Internet to create a new technology platform that connects everything and everyone. Billions of sensors are being attached to natural resources, production lines, the electricity grid, logistics networks, recycling flows, and implanted in homes, offices, stores, vehicles, and even human beings, feeding Big Data into an IoT global neural network. Prosumers can connect to the network and use Big Data, analytics, and algorithms to accelerate efficiency, dramatically increase productivity, and lower the marginal cost of producing and sharing a wide range of products and services to near zero, just like they now do with information goods.
The plummeting of marginal costs is spawning a hybrid economy—part capitalist market and part Collaborative Commons—with far reaching implications for society, according to Rifkin. Hundreds of millions of people are already transferring parts of their economic lives to the global Collaborative Commons. Prosumers are plugging into the fledgling IoT and making and sharing their own information, entertainment, green energy, and 3D-printed products at near zero marginal cost. They are also sharing cars, homes, clothes and other items via social media sites, rentals, redistribution clubs, and cooperatives at low or near zero marginal cost. Students are enrolling in free massive open online courses (MOOCs) that operate at near zero marginal cost. Social entrepreneurs are even bypassing the banking establishment and using crowdfunding to finance startup businesses as well as creating alternative currencies in the fledgling sharing economy. In this new world, social capital is as important as financial capital, access trumps ownership, sustainability supersedes consumerism, cooperation ousts competition, and “exchange value” in the capitalist marketplace is increasingly replaced by “sharable value” on the Collaborative Commons.
Rifkin concludes that capitalism will remain with us, albeit in an increasingly streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to flourish as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, says Rifkin, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent global Collaborative Commons.
From the author of, among many other insightful and controversialbooks, The Third Industrial Evolution, this new hopeful analysis discusses the near-future prospects of capitalism and the possibleeconomic systems that may replace it. Rifkin's central concept here is that of the "Creative Commons" which he claims will provide abetter model to economic function. If that happens, the change will be transformative on all levels of society, replacing the centraltenets on which our communities are constructed with better ones: more sustainable, more equitable, more just. He draws theseconclusions from the speed in which different aspects of the internet (which itself is the origin of the creative commonsparadigm)--Communications, Energy and Logistics Internets--are converging into the Internet of Things. The Internet of Thingsaccelerates production while reducing marginal distribution costs with knock-on positive effects on the environment, general human andindividual rights, and the reduction of the government's role in our lives. While it will not come to pass tomorrow, the process of itsemergence is pretty much inevitable, provided our current technological and cultural base survives the challenges. Anintellectually stimulating and appealing concept, it provides a world of promise as described herein.Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
"The Internet is lowering marginal production costs to nearly zero, futurist Rifkin (The Third Industrial Revolution) declares, making once prohibitively expensive items, services, and activities almost free. Rifkin suggests that scarcity will give way to a future of abundance as humankind learns to share in a 'collaborative commons,' thus weakening profits and property rights. 'The capitalist era is passing,' he begins grandly, and it 'will transform our way of life.' To make his case, Rifkind explores 3-D printing, massive open online courses (MOOCs), green energy, and other micro cases. But all this does not add up to plausible proof for his expansive claims. Rifkin's rambling, wildly optimistic polemic revisits the proposition that the Internet connects the world in novel ways not an especially new claim. Stringing buzzwords together like Christmas lights, Rifkin concludes that 'the rise of the collaborative commons offers us a path to biosphere consciousness in an empathetic civilization' and a 'sustainable cornucopia.' Rifkin's speculative overreach, peppered with such cloying neologisms as 'prosumers' and 'homo empathicus,' may spoil the book for serious readers. Agent: Meg Thompson, Einstein Thompson Agency. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
New York Times bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin explores how todays unprecedented interconnectedness is making core institutions such as private property, democracy, and national boundaries irrelevant—and explains what will replace them
The capitalist era is passing—not quickly, but inevitably. Rising in its wake is a new global collaborative Commons that will fundamentally transform our way of life. Ironically, capitalisms demise is not coming at the hands of hostile external forces. Rather, The Zero Marginal Cost Society argues, capitalism is a victim of its own success. Intense competition across sectors of the economy is forcing the introduction of ever newer technologies. Bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin explains that this competition is boosting productivity to its optimal point where the marginal cost of producing additional units is nearly zero, which makes the product essentially free. In turn, profits are drying up, property ownership is becoming meaningless, and an economy based on scarcity is giving way to an economy of abundance, changing the very nature of society.Rifkin describes how hundreds of millions of people are already transferring parts of their economic lives from capitalist markets to global networked Commons. “Prosumers” are producing their own information, entertainment, green energy, and 3-D printed products at nearly zero marginal cost, and sharing them via social media sites, rentals, redistribution clubs, bartering networks, and cooperatives. Meanwhile, students are enrolling in massive open online courses (MOOCs) that also operate at near-zero marginal cost. And young social entrepreneurs are establishing ecologically sensitive businesses, crowdsourcing capital, and even creating alternative currencies in the new sharable economy. As a result, “exchange value” in the marketplace—long the bedrock of our economy—is increasingly being replaced by “use value” on the collaborative Commons.In this new era, identity is less bound to what one owns and more to what one shares. Cooperation replaces self-interest, access trumps ownership, and networking drubs autonomy. Rifkin concludes that while capitalism will be with us for at least the next half century, albeit in an increasingly diminished role, it will no longer be the dominant paradigm. We are, Rifkin says, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together collaboratively and sustainably in an increasingly interdependent global Commons.
In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, New York Times bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin argues that the capitalist era is passing—not quickly, but inevitably. The emerging Internet of Things is giving rise to a new economic system—the Collaborative Commons—that will transform our way of life.
In his provocative new book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Mr. Rifkin argues that the coming together of the Communication Internet with the fledgling Energy Internet and Logistics Internet in a seamless 21st century intelligent infrastructure—the Internet of Things—is boosting productivity to the point where the marginal cost of producing many goods and services is nearly zero, making them essentially free. The result is corporate profits are beginning to dry up, property rights are weakening, and the conventional mindset of scarcity is slowly giving way to the possibility of abundance. The zero marginal cost phenomenon is spawning a hybrid economy—part capitalist market and part Collaborative Commons—with far reaching implications for society.
Rifkin describes how hundreds of millions of people are already transferring parts of their economic lives from capitalist markets to what he calls the global “Collaborative Commons.” “Prosumers” are making and sharing their own information, entertainment, green energy, and 3-D printed products at near zero marginal cost. They are also sharing cars, homes, clothes and other items via social media sites, rentals, redistribution clubs, and cooperatives at low or near zero marginal cost. Students are even enrolling in free massive open online courses (MOOCs) that operate at near zero marginal cost. And young social entrepreneurs are establishing ecologically sensitive businesses using crowdfunding as well as creating alternative currencies in the new sharing economy. In this new world, social capital is as important as finance capital, access trumps ownership, cooperation supersedes competition, and “exchange value” in the capitalist marketplace is increasingly replaced by “sharable value” on the Collaborative Commons.
Rifkin concludes that while capitalism will be with us for the foreseeable future, albeit in an increasingly diminished role, it will not be the dominant economic paradigm by the second half of the 21st Century. We are, Rifkin says, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent global Collaborative Commons.
About the Author
JEREMY RIFKIN, one of the most popular social thinkers of our time, is the bestselling author of 19 books including The Third Industrial Revolution, The Empathic Civilization, The European Dream, and The End of Work. Rifkin is an advisor to the European Union and heads of state around the world. He is a senior lecturer at the Wharton Schools Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania and the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, DC.