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Third Industrial Revolution has already begun.
The information centralized in a few television network has gradually given way to decentralized and interactive communication on the Internet with mobile and satellite communications, sms, mms, etc…
Millions and millions of people, mostly young and teens, communicate today by transmitting video, text, images, data, through applications across network applications such as Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia, Twitter, MSN, skype, and various emails. They are progressively becoming providers as well as consumers of information, abandoning the passive role of mere receivers of the message. With the Internet, everybody becomes a player in the information arena.
The same thing is increasingly happening, thanks to new technologies, in the energy sector. As Jeremy Rifkin has clearly foreseen since 1995 with the book “The End of Work”, the gradual convergence of an interactive and decentralized information model with an equally interactive and decentralized energy model, has positive consequences on the employment and in the social-economic as well democratic life.
The second industrial revolution has enabled an unprecedented development of the human species, but it has also very serious impacted our environment and our climate, as we are finally becoming aware. It has also shaped a top-down, unequal and unfair society, mirror image of the fossil and concentrated energy sources (coal, oil, gas and uranium) that have powered it.
The simultaneous explosion of the three economic, environmental and energy crises, has marked the peak of this kind of globalization based, putting it in a structural, irreversible crisis the second industrial revolution economic model, a model in which the production and distribution of power was the monopoly of a few individuals and groups “sitting” on oil or uranium deposits, needing tremendous amounts of public and private capital to exploit these concentrate sources. The Third Industrial Revolution will radically change this equation, because its energy model is more distributed and more labor intensive than capital intensive.
In a not so far future, we will all be empowered to produce our energy in our homes, factories, offices, hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, sport centers and farms. And we will be able to store the energy so produced thanks to advanced hydrogen technologies and to exchange it in a vast interconnected network, through a system of smart grids. In other words we will all be in a new economic framework that Rifkin defines “distributed capitalism” where everybody is also a producer and not just a consumer of energy, exactly like it already is in the information world.
This new energy model, is “zero emissions” and therefore compatible with the international climate and environment policies, but it also provides the basis for what has been called the “Green New Deal”, and for an enduring economic recovery of historic proportions. This is what Jeremy Rifkin calls “a new economic long-term game plan” involving the creation of new businesses, locally bound jobs and technological innovation.
Given the intensity of work per unit of energy produced that far exceeds that of the traditional energy models based on concentrated energy sources, the Third Industrial Revolution will create millions of jobs in the advanced energy and telecommunications sectors, and contribute significantly to a offset the present global economic meltdown, of which the credit crisis is not the cause but only a marginal effect. The banks bailouts are necessary but not sufficient, because they act only on the most evident effects of the structural crisis of the second industrial revolution. To act on its causes, one must create and distribute wealth, generate steady jobs at local level, and allow citizens to be “consumers” without becoming “bad creditors”.
The Third Industrial Revolution is a historic, irreversible and unstoppable process.
But it is a process that can be accelerated or slowed down, depending on whether climate and energy policies will foster energy models based on distributed and sustainable production and technological innovation, or will aim at the preservation of the present concentrated energy sources business model continuing to ensure rich profits to a few energy monopolies and power centers.
In this regard we recall that Jeremy Rifkin often reminds us that we are at the sunset of the concentrated energy age of the second industrial revolution, and that sunsets may last a long time, so we must take this chance to begin immediately to prepare the infrastructure based on renewable energy and solar sources. Our atmosphere in fact, still in the words of Rifkin, “is running out much faster than our fossil fuels.”
It is therefore unwise to wait until we have used the last available drop of oil before we begin to prepare an alternative. It is instead in the common interest of mankind to speed up the transition to a Third Industrial Revolution energy model, restoring as soon as we possibly can, the chemical balance of our biosphere, that has allowed the evolution of the human race and preventing irreversible alteration which may affect the very survival of the human beings on planet Earth. This is why we agree with Jeremy Rifkin when he calls for a new “Biosphere Politics” to replace the present obsolete geopolitics, which, since the Peace of Westphalia, have devastated our continents, with tragic wars in which millions of people have died in the more or less stated purpose to ensure access to concentrated sources of energy.