Image Source: Salon.com.
Count Jeremy Rifkin among one of many Baby Boomer theorists who are optimistic about the future of tech and the economy. Rifkin has developed a new theory about how a huge transformation will unfold. He calls it the Third Industrial Revolution, and he bases it on the convergence of energy, communications and the economy. Forbes has a report on this vision of economic cycles of time and progress:
When we change energy regimes, it makes possible much more complex economic relations. When energy revolutions occur, however, they require communication revolutions that are agile enough to manage them. If you look at the 19th century, print technology became very cheap when we introduced steam power into printing. That decreased the cost and increased the speed, efficiency and availability of print material. At the same time we established public schools in Europe and America. We created a print literate workforce with the communication skills to organize a First Industrial Revolution driven by coal and steam power.
Then we did it again in the 20th century with the convergence of communication and energy: Centralized electricity—especially the telephone and then later radio and television—became the communication vehicles to manage a more dispersed Second Industrial Revolution, organized around the oil-powered internal combustion engine, suburban construction and the creation of a mass consumer society....
[The Third Industrial Revolution is] based on a new convergence of communication and energy. The Internet has been a very powerful communication tool in the last 20 years. What’s so interesting about it is the way it scales. I grew up in the 20th century on centralized electricity communication that scales vertically. The Internet, by contrast, is a distributed and collaborative communication medium and scales laterally.
We are in the early stages of a convergence of Internet communication technology with a new form of energy that is by nature distributed and has to be managed collaboratively and scales laterally. We’re making a great transition to distributed renewable energy sources. And we distinguish those from the elite energies—coal, oil, gas, tar sands—that are only found in a few places and require significant military and geopolitical investments and massive finance capital, and that have to scale top down because they are so expensive. Those energies are clearly sunsetting as we enter the long endgame of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Distributed energies, by contrast, are found in some frequency or proportion in every inch of the world: the sun, the wind, the geothermal heat under the ground, biomass—garbage, agricultural and forest waste—small hydro, ocean tides and waves.