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4/29/17

The Third Industrial Revolution: Will It Create An Economic Boom That Saves The Planet? - by Jeff Beer

Jeremy Rifkin sees a Third Industrial Revolution coming
Jeremy Rifkin, a US born economic and social theorist, writer, public speaker, political advisor, and activist, thinking about how to build a clean-energy powered, automation-filled future is inspiring major infrastructure plans in Europe and China. 

Can he also convince American political and business leaders to buy in? 

First, the bad news: GDP is slowing all over the world because productivity has been in decline for two decades. The result has been higher unemployment (especially among young people) and economists talking about 20 more years of slow growth. According to new numbers from Oxfam, just eight people are as rich as half the globe. In addition to this unprecedented inequality, we face climate change that’s taken us into the sixth extinction wave in the history of the planet, and the last time that happened was 65 million years ago. To turn things around before it’s too late, we need a plan that’s both compelling and doable. Economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin thinks he has just that plan: creating what he calls the third industrial revolution, which will be sparked by harnessing renewable energy and enabling automation and the internet of things to result in a prosperous new economy powered by clean energy.

The good news is that people are listening. On February 7, the European Union unveiled its “Smart Europe” plan influenced by Rifkin’s work, which outlines how the 350 regions of Europe will start building out the road maps to transition into a new infrastructure of 5G internet, renewable energy, and automated driverless transport internet, all riding on top of an internet of things platform. Regions in the north of France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands have already begun their transition over the last few years. There’s a similar plan taking place in China: After Premier Li Keqiang read Rifkin’s seminal book, The Third Industrial Revolution, he made Rifkin’s strategies core to the country’s 13th Five-Year plan that was announced last March, and includes billions in renewable energy investment by 2020.

While his plans are in the works in Europe and Asia, The Third Industrial Revolution, a new film about Rifkin and his work, that recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, aims to explain his framework for a plan for the U.S. While President Trump and Republican and Democratic lawmakers have made some attempts toward putting together a massive $1 trillion infrastructure plan, any details remain murky. Rifkin wants a plan that instead would take power from the bickering tug-of-war of federal politics, and give it to the people, businesses, and local officials who can affect change on the ground.

The film (a Vice production) is based around the theories Rifkin presented in his book of the same name, and two other of his books, The Empathic Civilization (2009) and Zero Marginal Cost Society (2014). The film explores the challenges of climate change and globalization, the opportunities created by the rise of the internet and automation, and how governments and corporations should be preparing for–and working to build–a society and economy driven by sustainable innovation, and powered by renewable and distributed energy. “I think the green shoots are coming up everywhere; we’re seeing telltale signs of what’s in the film,” Rifkin tells Fast Company. “My hope is if people see the film it will make sense to them because it’s already on the tip of their tongue. They know all the sentences, they just hadn’t put the chapters together. Then it just makes sense. And once that happens, they never go back. I think a lot of people are right there.”

The doc takes place in an empty Brooklyn warehouse. It’s a version of speeches Rifkin has been giving around the world, told over two hours in An Inconvenient Truth-style, lo-fi lecture. Rifkin is in his 70s, and looks a bit like if the Monopoly Man was a college professor. In addition to being a best-selling author, he’s also a senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program, and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C. In the film, as in person, he comes across as friendly and down-to-earth, able to outline and articulate complex problems and proposed solutions in a way that makes you feel like you’re just having a beer with a favorite uncle, and just happen to be chatting about the link between global economics and climate change.

While in Europe and China, Rifkin has spent years consulting with top government officials, but this new film with Vice represents a starkly different approach for U.S. audiences. Rifkin sees the real potential for change and influence in American business and local community leaders. So the documentary will be his calling card, a TLDR version of his books, to screen for everyone from CEOs to university students, to quickly get people excited and motivated to help boost the economy and save the planet. Could it possibly work?


"What I'm suggesting to you is that this could be a renaissance. We may be on the cusp of a future which could provide a tremendous leap forward for humanity.

It may be that everything the life science companies are telling us will turn out to be right, and there's no problem here whatsoever. That defies logic.

They're now turning those seeds into intellectual property, so they have a virtual lock on the seeds upon which we all depend for our food and survival ".

Also read the interview with him in The European.

Read more: Will The Third Industrial Revolution Create An Economic Boom That Saves The Planet?

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