You probably have heard of Jeremy Rifkin these last months, haven’t you? His last book “The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World”, published in September 2011 is by now a best-seller.
American economist, writer, political advisor, and activist, Jeremy Rifkin explores the potential impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, society, and the environment. In his book, he outlines his concept and vision of the “Third Industrial Revolution”, which he has been working on for the last years, along with numerous political leaders and entrepreneurs in the world. His action in Europe has been especially effective and has led to a formal endorsement by the European Parliament in July 2007. It has been the basis for the EU’s objectives in terms of fighting against climate change, commonly called “20/20/20”, which now are one of the five key priorities for “Europe 2020”, the EU’s 10-year economic growth strategy.
The idea of an upcoming third industrial revolution comes from the observation that industrial revolutions arise from the merging of a new source of energy and new communication technologies :
- First industrial revolution : in America and Europe, between the 1830s and 1890s, coal and steam-powered machines enabled mass printing and railways to develop, which led to mass literacy and public schooling on the one hand, and to urban migration on the other hand. The factory economy emerged from the new concentrated literate workforce.
- Second industrial revolution : again in the 1900s, the convergence of electrical communication and oil-powered internal combustion engines gave birth to mass production of goods, especially automobiles, which revolutionned the way individuals would go from one place to the other and relate with distance, making suburban areas emerge. At the same time, the telephone, the radio, and the television reached every home, increasing this movement and creating today’s mass consumption economy.
Since the 1990s, a new communication technology exists and has come to invest our everyday life: the Internet. On the energy sources’ side too, a change has come: the ability to use renewable energy sources to produce the electricity we need. According to Jeremy Rifkin, the convergence of both these breakthroughs will launch a third industrial revolution, foreshadowed by silent tranformations that we already observe happening today. And this would probably again change the world as we know it in only about 50 years.
In his book, besides explaining this and illustrating the silent tranformations annoucing the “TIR”, Jeremy Rifkin shows how the third industrial revolution is based on 5 pillars:
- Shifting from oil to renewable energies
- Transforming buildings into decentralized power plants
- Storing electricity once it is produced (especially with hydrogen technology)
- Developing smart grids that are bidirectionnal and localized
- Transitionning to electric, plug-in and fuel cell vehicles
Over the next weeks, I will publish posts about each of those pillars, to go more into details about what the third industrial revolution and the future world should look like.