Jeremy Rifkin: “The Zero Marginal Cost Society” | Talks at Google

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Published on July 9, 2016 by Kayleigh

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.

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. –macmillan.com

About the Author: Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of twenty books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. He has been an advisor to the European Union for the past decade.

Mr. Rifkin also served as an adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, and Prime Minister Janez Janša of Slovenia, during their respective European Council Presidencies, on issues related to the economy, climate change, and energy security.

Mr. Rifkin is a senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania where he instructs CEOs and senior management on transitioning their business operations into sustainable Third Industrial Revolution economies.

Mr. Rifkin holds a degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

This Authors@Google talk was hosted by Boris Debic.

8 comments

  • mastertheillusion 2 years ago

    If people listen carefully to these ideas they may get to the point in
    realizing, this is brilliant.
    This audience uses the word “never” too much and seems to be looking behind
    instead of ahead.

    Reply
  • Craig Townsend 2 years ago

    Rifkin’s work is contradictory from the very start. I think its on page 7
    or 8 he states that entropy cannot be avoided and then on the next page
    states that sustainability can bring abundance. The rest of the book
    goes back and forth from there with the contradictions abounding. He
    basically greened Keynesian ideas on how to reach the socialist utopia by
    bringing about the zero marginal productivity of capital. My
    book The Singularity and Socialism shows exactly how to get to “utopia”
    without violating any valid economics or having contradictions abound.
    http://www.amazon.com/Singularity-Socialism-Complexity-Techno-Optimism-Abundance/dp/1503034739
    

    Reply
  • Suhyoung Choi 2 years ago

    Near 0 margin already happened. You can see that the skills of the
    middle level workers are now valued at near 0. Maybe we need to stop this
    economy and put in inefficiency deliberately. In this case, we need to stop
    the globalization as Trump is advocating and the large part of the
    Americans understand him and are following him. WIll he succeed?

    Reply
  • Ron Knox 2 years ago

    We already do! Then why is there so much hunger and desperation in many
    parts of the world? We obviously do not either produce enough or distribute
    it effectively. For a start much of what we produce is perishable.. It’s
    rotten before it can be distributed. To say “we do” is no answer, merely
    avoids an answer.

    Reply
  • Ron Knox 2 years ago

    How do we mass produce food from small cooperatives? How do we distribute
    water to billions of people?

    Reply
    • Solyaris 2 years ago

      I dont agree with everything he says, part make sense, but not all.
      Cooperatives are not the must efficient system.

      Reply
    • Craig Townsend 2 years ago

      +Ron Knox Rifkin’s work is contradictory from the very start. I think its
      on page 7 or 8 he states that entropy cannot be avoided and then on the
      next page states that sustainability can bring abundance. The rest of the
      book goes back and forth from there with the contradictions abounding. My
      book The Singularity and Socialism shows exactly how to get to “utopia”
      without violating any valid economics or having contradictions abound.
      http://www.amazon.com/Singularity-Socialism-Complexity-Techno-Optimism-Abundance/dp/1503034739

      Reply
    • Larry Frost 2 years ago

      +Ron Knox we already do

      Reply

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