THE ZERO MARGINAL COST SOCIETY – The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons and The Eclipse of Capitalism

 


“A powerful new technology platform is developing out of the bowels of the Second Industrial Revolution, speeding the central contradiction of capitalist ideology to the end game. The coming together of the Communications Internet with a digitalized renewable Energy Internet and automated Transportation and Logistics Internet in a seamless twenty-first-century intelligent infrastructure-the Internet of Things(IoT)-is giving birth to a Third Industrial Revolution. The IoT is already boosting productivity to the point where the marginal cost of producing many goods and services is nearly zero, making them practically free and sharable on the emerging Collaborative Commons. The result is corporate profits are beginning to dry up, property rights are weakening, and an economy based on scarcity is slowly giving way to an economy of abundance.” – from Changing The Economic Paradigm, Chapter 1. The Great Paradigm Shift From Market Capitalism To The Collaborative Commons


CAPITALIST MARKET GIVING WAY TO NEW ECONOMIC PARADIGM

The Internet Age is the world we’re living in. The internet is such an indispensable part of our life. How far has it transformed our reality since it was first introduced in 1990? And how far will it bring us to the future? And how fast? Can the change it will bring be asserted as even to the extent of the Revolution?

According to the author, the answer is Yes. To what extent? Up to the eclipse of the Capitalism. And new-born economic behaviors by human race evolving around the Collaborative Commons. A very daring and courageous assertion. By the time you finish this book, you may find yourself persuaded to believe that you are at the edge of the new paradigm that’s fast approaching.

The author is doing a great work for his persuasion for this challenging argument by weaving such diverse subjects as history, economics, physics, theology, philosophy, technology and entrepreneurship with numerous cases from various (maybe almost all) industries from the past and the present.

The book comprises of 5 big themes; It starts with an introductory chapter that summarizes what’s to come in following chapters. Then it moves on with firstly, the history of Capitalism, secondly, current development of the Zero Marginal Cost Society, thirdly, elaboration on the Collaborative Commons, fourthly, Social Capital and the Sharing Economy and lastly, the idea of the economy of abundance.

The author’s deep insight on current map of what’s happening across various industries is covered under the second theme of The Near Zero Marginal Cost Society. The societal as well as economic behavioral changes it embodies being the main reason why the author boldly asserts the old paradigm under the Capitalist regime is eroding, the author places the history of Capitalism in the first place with some categorical distinctions-Energy/Communication/Technology matrices with concurrent organizational characteristics-so that readers could clearly follow and compare the old versus the current in this frame. Then the author tries to label the new behavioral and organizational platform as the Commons on the IoT infrastructure that clearly has a collaborative nature and elaborates on Social Capital and the Sharing Economy in the following themes.

Before moving on for summary of the key aspects of the book, I would like to introduce some key concepts so that readers can thoroughly enjoy the author’s bold statements on many fronts during the journey.

The Internet of Things(IoT): The Internet of Things is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment. (www.gartner.com)

According to the author, the Internet of Things will connect every thing with everyone in an integrated global network. People, machines, natural resources, production lines, logistics networks, consumption habits, recycling flows, and virtually every other aspect of economic and social life is linked via sensors and software to the IoT platform, continually feeding Big Data to every node-business, homes, vehicles-moment to moment, in real time. Big Data, in turn, will be processed with advanced analytics, transformed into predictive algorithms, and programmed into automated systems to improve thermodynamic efficiencies, dramatically increase productivity, and reduce the marginal cost of producing and delivering a full range of goods and services to near zero across the entire economy. (p.14)

Capital: Financial assets or the financial value of assets, such as funds held in deposit accounts, as well as the tangible machinery and production equipment used in environments such as factories and other manufacturing facilities. (businessdictionary.com)

Marginal Cost: The increase or decrease in the total cost of a production run for making one additional unit of an item. It is computed in situations where the breakeven point has been reached: the fixed costs have already been absorbed by the already produced items and only the direct (variable) costs have to be accounted for.

Marginal costs are variable costs consisting of labor and material costs, plus an estimated portion of fixed costs (such as administration overheads and selling expenses). In companies where average costs are fairly constant, marginal cost is usually equal to average cost. However, in industries that require heavy capital investment (automobile plants, airlines, mines) and have high average costs, it is comparatively very low. (businessdictionary.com)

Say’s Law(Say’s Law of Markets): An economic rule that says that production is the source of demand. According to Say’s Law, when an individual produces a product or service, he or she gets paid for that work, and is then able to use that pay to demand other goods and services. Jean-Baptist Say is an French Enlightenment philosopher. (investopedia.com)

Development of Say’s Law by neoclassical economists: Assuming a competitive market, new technology enhances productivity, allowing the seller to produce more goods at a cheaper cost per unit. The increased supply of cheaper goods at a cheaper price creates its own demand and, in the process, forces competitors to invest their own technologies to increase productivity in order to sell their goods even more cheaply, creating the entire process operating like a perpetual-motion machine. (p.4)

A scenario of extreme productivity: Intense competition forces the introduction of ever-leaner technology, boosting productivity to the optimal point in which each additional unit introduced for sale approaches “near zero” marginal cost. In other words, the cost of actually producing each additional unit-if fixed costs are not counted-becomes essentially zero, making the product nearly free. If that were to happen, profit, the life-blood of capitalism, would dry up. (p.4)

Common: A common is a shared resource managed by a community who creates rules to make the resource durable. The resource can’t be monopolized by one or a group of individuals, it has to be as opened as possible. The resource is not private or public, it’s a third thing: a common. (www.wikipedia.org)

Collaborative Commons: According to the author, the core of capitalism-‘the private property’-started from the ‘enclosure’ of the land(which was a common) in the late medieval period. Now the enclosure is being further extended to everything on earth including public goods. Collaborative Commons is an opposing concept of ‘ownership-based economy.’ Everything that virtually has been enclosed, privatized, and commodified in the market in capitalism is reopened to the human race reversing the great enclosures and reestablishing the global Commons in biosphere under collaborative arrangements and governance. (p.229)

Infofacturing: Whereas manufacturing under the Second Industrial Revolution required human labor(manu), the Third Industrial Revolution uses software that relies on open source information to produce goods. Typical example is 3D printing. (p.108)

Social Capital: Social Capital is an economic idea that refers to the connections between individuals and entities that can be economically valuable. Social networks that include people who trust and assist each other can be a powerful asset. These relationships between individuals and companies can lead to a state in which each thinks of the other when something needs to be done. (www.investopedia.com)

1. THE FIRST AND SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION VERSUS THE THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: COMPARISONS BASED ON ENERGY/COMMUNICATION/TRANSPORTATION MATRICES AND ORGANIZATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS

The author compares the three Industrial Revolutions using a coherent framework of Energy/Communication/Transportation matrices with certain business models organized around them.

The coal-powered steam infrastructure enabled the convergence of coal-powered steam rail transport and coal-powered steam printing for the First Industrial Revolution. Likewise, the discovery of oil, the invention of the internal combustion engine and the introduction of telephone gave rise to a new and more powerful energy/transportation/communication complex for the Second Industrial Revolution.

The important aspect of the First and Second Industrial Revolution is that the technology platforms were designed to be centralized with top-down command and control, because fossil fuels are only found in certain places and require centralized management to move them from underground to the final end users. The centralized energies, in turn, require centralized, vertically integrated forms of communication in order to manage the momentous speed-up in commercial transactions made possible by the new sources of power. The enormous capital cost in establishing centralized communication/energy/transportation matrices meant that the new industrial and commercial enterprises embedded in and dependent on these technology platforms had to create their own giant, vertically integrated operations across the value chain.

On the other hand, the author asserts the coming together of the Communications Internet with a digitalized renewable Energy Internet and automated Transportation and Logistics Internet in a seamless intelligent infrastructure-the IoT technology platform-in the Third Industrial Revolution, due to its open architecture and distributed features, allows social enterprises on the Collaborative Commons to break the monopoly hold of giant, vertically integrated companies operating in capitalist markets by enabling peer production in laterally scaled continental and global networks at near zero marginal cost.

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2. THE HISTORY OF CAPITALISM

The author makes it clear that ‘free market’ is not synonymous with ‘capitalism;’ The latter requires the former, whereas the former doesn’t require the latter for free exchange of private property. He spares some time to illustrate the birth of the market economy that started during the feudal system in the later part of Middle Ages. This is a period when land was a common and serfdom was existent in the form of Tenancy Agreement between peasants and feudal landlords. The feudal notion of property relation meant it was never exclusively owned but rather divided up into spheres of responsibility of proprietary obligation conforming to “Great Chain of Being” theology.

The Enclosure Movement that started in England from the sixteenth century turned firstly ‘land’ into ‘real estate,’ giving ownership to individuals for the first time in history and secondly, ‘serfdom’ into ‘free labor’ making both available and possible for exchange in the marketplace. The author emphasizes the emergence of this new ‘private-property’ regime as a key drive in the passage from feudal life to the modern market economy. Also, he pays attention to water and wind mills as important energy source along with the invention of print and asserts they were the key driving forces that altered the existing economic paradigm and social construction into the new one, the Capitalism.

The convergence of print and renewable energies had the effect of democratizing both literacy and power, posing a formidable challenge to the hierarchical organization of feudal life. The synergies created by the print revolution and wind and water power, along with steady improvements in road and river transport, sped up exchange and decreased transaction costs, making possible trade in larger regional markets. – from The Rise of The Market Economy, Chapter 2. The European Enclosure And The Birth of The Market Economy, p.4

Capitalism first began in the textile trade with the introduction of steam power in the late eighteenth century. The author highlights the birth of two important aspects of Capitalism using below illustration quoted. First, emergence of the class relationship-the capitalists versus the wage laborers. Second, the subordination of production to capital.

In the late sixteenth century, a new generation of small manufacturers began to bring together workers under one roof to take advantage of the economies of scale in harnessing water mills and wind mills to the production process. These small manufacturers also owned the machinery used by the workers. The result is that craftsmen, who had previously owned their own equipment, were stripped of the tools of their trade and turned into wage laborers working for a new type of master-the capitalist. The textile trade fell into the hands of the capitalists and soon other trades followed. – from The Birth of Capitalism, Chapter 3. The Courtship of Capitalism and The Vertical Integration, p.48

And, as the third aspect of Capitalism, the author points out emergence of the modern stock-holding corporation created to facilitate the financing for railroad infrastructure. In this new business model, ownership was separated for the first time from management and control. The giant enterprises were run entirely by paid professional managers whose primary responsibility would be to ensure a return on investment to their shareholders.

Capitalism is a unique and peculiar form of enterprise in which the workforce is stripped of its ownership of the tools it uses to create the products, and the investors who own the enterprises are stripped of their power to control and manage their businesses. The high capital cost of establishing a rail infrastructure made necessary a business model that could organize around vertical integration, bringing upstream suppliers and downstream customers together under one roof. The major railroads bought mining properties to secure a guaranteed supply of coal for their locomotives. The Pennsylvania Railroad even financed the Pennsylvania Steel Works Company to ensure a steady supply of steel to make its rails. The Canadian Pacific Railroad built and managed hotels near its rail stations to accommodate its passengers. Managing large, vertically integrated enterprises, in turn, was most efficiently carried out by centralized, top-down command and control mechanisms. – from A Coal-Powered Steam Infrastructure, Chapter 3. The Courtship of Capitalism and The Vertical Integration, p.52

3. THE NEAR ZERO MARGINAL COST SOCIETY WE ARE IN

As leaps in productivity and growth were made possible by the communication/energy/transportation matrix in both the First and Second Industrial Revolution, the enormous leap in productivity is also possible by the IoT that will connect every thing in an intelligent network comprised of a Communications Internet, Energy Internet, and Transportation Internet, all embedded in a single operating system.

Just as the First and Second Industrial Revolutions required heavy initial financing for infrastructures, the Third Industrial Revolution’s infrastructure build up also requires high initial cost. But according to the author, it is comparatively lower and, more importantly, once upfront fixed cost is covered, the following cost for production and distribution is nearly free given the characteristics of information and renewable solar and wind power in The Communication Internet and Energy Internet.

Can we imagine a world where nearly free information, managing nearly free green energy and creating an intelligent communication/energy matrix and infrastructure, begins to allow business in the world to connect, distribute and share energy across Energy Internet, and produce and sell goods at a fraction of the price charged by today’s global manufacturing giants?

The author demonstrates this is happening in commercial sectors and addresses human labor aspect as in below cases.

  • 3D Printing

Hundreds of small scale start-ups establish 3D printing operations, infofacturing products at near zero marginal cost, powering their Fab Lab with their own green energy, marketing their goods for nearly free on hundreds of global websites and delivering in electric and fuel-cell vehicles powered by their own green energy.

  • MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses)

Millions of students around the world who never had access to expensive college education are suddenly able to take courses taught by the most distinguished scholars in the world and receive credit for all free.

  • Intelligent Technology as Substitutes for Workers

Businesses conduct much of the commercial activity of civilization more intelligently, efficiently, and cheaply than with conventional workforce as the marginal cost of human labor in the production and distribution of goods and services plummets to near zero due to intelligent technology substitutes for workers across every industry and professional and technical field.

4. THE COLLABORATIVE COMMONS 

The author claims that the Collaborative Commons will be the dominant model for organizing economic life in the Third Industrial Revolution. Deeply social and democratic are the main characteristics. While the capitalist market is based on self-interest and driven by material gain, the Social Commons is motivated by collaborative interests and driven by a deep desire to connect with others and share. If the former promotes property rights, caveat emptor, and the search for autonomy, the latter advances open-source innovation, transparency, and the search for community.

The author tracks a few recent movements that contributed to shaping today’s cultural, social, economic behaviors as collaboratists. And he claims the future will be unfolded with economic clash between the collaboratists and capitalists as a manifestation of a cultural conflict with the emerging cultural narrative as “democratization of everything.”

There was a growing awareness of the Internet as a place where human beings create social capital rather than market capital. Every young person in the world wanted to get in on the act, creating videos and photos for each other to look at, sharing music tips, blogging ideas and observations, and contributing academic snippets on Wikipedia, with the hope that their input might be of value to other users. This metamorphosis of human sociability is taking us beyond blood ties, religious affiliations, and national identities to global consciousness. This is a cultural phenomenon on an unprecedented scale, and is being led by 2.7 billion amateurs. The global democratization of culture is made possible by an Internet communication medium whose operating logic is distributed, collaborative, and laterally scaled. That operating logic favors an open Commons form of democratic self-management. – from Rallying Around Free Software, Chapter 11. The Collaboratists Prepare For Battle, p.214

And he points that what brings everyone’s interest together is ‘restoring the health of the biosphere community that has been devastated from the capitalism market economy.’

While the enclosures, privatization, and commercial exploitation of Earth’s ecosystems in the capitalist era has resulted in a dramatic rise in the standard of life of a significant minority of the human race, it has been at the expense of the biosphere itself. […] The enclosures of the land and ocean Commons, the fresh water Commons, the atmosphere Commons, the electromagnetic spectrum Commons, the knowledge Commons, and the genetic Commons has severed the complex internal dynamics of Earth’s biosphere, jeopardizing every human being’s welfare and the well-being of all the other organisms that inhabit the planet. […] The real historical significance of the Free Culture Movement and Environmental Movement is that they are both standing up to the forces of enclosure. By reopening the various Commons, humanity begins to think and act as part of a whole. We come to realize that the ultimate creative power is reconnecting with one another and embedding ourselves in ever-larger systems of relationships that ripple out to encompass the entire set of relationships that make up the biosphere Commons. – from A New Commons Narrative, Chapter 11. The Collaboratists Prepare For Battle, p.224

5. SOCIAL CAPITAL AND THE SHARING ECONOMY

In capitalist system, private property is the defining characteristic. Freedom represented by automobile symbolized the mobility and the ultimate enclosure with exclusivity. The author asserts that, on the other hand, the Internet generation thinks of freedom as the right to be included with others not exclude others. For them, freedom is measured more by access to others in networks than ownership of property in markets. The deeper and more inclusive one’s relationships, the more freedom they enjoy. Freedom for them is the ability to collaborate with others, without restriction, in a peer-to-peer world.

Social capital through the experience of connecting with others becomes the defining characteristic in Collaborative Commons age. And ownership gives ways to access, shaping the Sharing Economy where people share every thing with each other. The author suggests two main reasons for emergence of the Sharing Economy. First, a wake-up call from the Great Recession started in 2008 that people are left with accumulation of “stuff” they barely used and buried in debt to finance it without pay-check. They began to question the value of accumulating possessions that added little or nothing to their sense of happiness and well-being. And the youth coming out of the Great Recession realized that they would not likely enjoy anywhere near the standard of living of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations in the future. Second, people started to recognize that two centuries of industrial activity that had created unprecedented prosperity at the expense of Earth’s ecological endowment resulted in catastrophic climate change leaving their grand children even bigger environmental debt that might never be paid back.

The numerous examples of people’s new economic behaviors of sharing almost every thing and of prospering entrepreneurship in the Sharing Economy are well illustrated across many industry. What’s notable among them are as below.

  • Health-care Industry
  • Advertising Industry
  • Peer-to-Peer Social Lending(Crowd-funding)
  • Social Entrepreneurship(Profit and Non-profit)
  • Commons Currencies
  • New Kinds of Employment (IoT as both a job killer and a source of employment)

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CONTEMPLATION: A DISCIPLE OF CAPITALISM PERSUADED? OR NOT?

A simple reading started out of curiosity and intention to get to learn more about the Sharing Economy that is represented by such players as Uber and Airbnb, who are leaving confusions and some notorious marks, ended as a broad journey that helped me gain much more knowledge and insight about the possible future of our human race. As a disciple of capitalism that brought about unprecedented prosperity within short time-frame in the history of human race, I have a mixed feeling about this book but, certainly, this reading provided me a rare but needed chance to think about capitalism in various dimensions. I have to confess that, throughout the reading, I really had to make extensive exclamations, doubts and questions in response to the bold statements that the author made. And I am sure I am not alone. Just like myself, readers may also find that they agree on a lot of phenomena that are happening in current time but at the same time don’t buy some of the author’s assertions in many aspects. Why? Maybe we are scared of the radically different future that are fast approaching? Below are some aspects that I want to discuss.

  • Capitalism To Be Eclipsed by the Collaborative Commons

What I agree

The author claims that capitalism’s fundamental approach and perception is based on ‘scarcity.’ And he emphasizes that two-hundred years of Industrial Revolution left the earth’s biosphere devastated by human race’s reckless exploitation because of this scarcity mindset that Capitalism imposes. Also, the current capitalist paradigm is losing ground and being challenged by a new generation of interdisciplinary scholarship that involves the laws of thermodynamics. The exponential drop of computer costs that we’ve experienced is one example and lots of similar cases demonstrate this in technological aspect, such that the old capitalist paradigm that only focuses on capital and labor alone cannot cope with the change. These are really good points. I also had to agree with the fact that I was also educated to beat competitions to get the scarce opportunities and resources up there or out there under the educational system that were designed to support capitalist paradigm.

What I don’t agree

Despite the fact that our human race has a virtue to put public interests ahead of personal interests, it cannot justify that our whole future economic organization will be shifted to the Collaborative Commons model. Will the notion of private property, be it labor or real estate, disappear from our DNA? Also, given ‘the incentives’ are essential motivating factor for human economic activity, when it is removed due to extreme productivity and the resulting free goods and services, does it necessarily imply the disappearance of capitalism? Maybe not. Rather, it is more proper to say that current capitalism model will be revised or upgraded by accommodating this access-instead-of-ownership based Sharing Economy model into the system. As the author suggested, the future will see this incentive will propel social entrepreneurship or new sorts of business models creating new employment opportunities in the social economy instead of traditional capitalist economy.

  • The Struggle between Capitalist Economy and Collaborative Commons

What I agree

It’s interesting to note that on the Communication Commons, the Google or Facebook are becoming like an Internet oligopoly. The new reality-that the new communication medium a younger generation gravitate to because of its promise of openness, transparency, and deep social collaboration masks another persona more concerned with ringing up profit-implies that the fundamental nature of capitalism would persist even on the new economic model.

Also, there will be continuous efforts by the giant, vertically integrated powerful capitalists to take the chance of emerging social economy-be it on Communication Internet or on Energy Internet. Also, I am sure we will see continuous activisms like Occupy Movements across the globe to gain back the privileges dominated by a few capitalists.

What I don’t agree

But does it have to be a negative attempts in the form of battle or struggle by the Collaboratists? Aren’t the terms battle and struggle themselves the scarcity-oriented capitalist jargons? They should be rather replaced with such terms as ‘push and pull’ or ‘action and reaction.’ Also, in order for the Collaborative Commons to work, the incumbents’ consent on the rules is prerequisite but I doubt the activisms represent the whole community’s consent. As mentioned in the Google’s monopoly case, the dark aspect of human nature-the greed-will always work behind.

  • What I Enjoyed From This Book

Amidst shocks and doubts throughout the reading though, I quite enjoyed the author’s intellectual work. There are some aspects that provided me with some meaningful insights.

First, the author’s timely introduction of the world view that legitimized the economic system throughout the historical development of the First and Second Industrial Revolution was necessary and appropriate.

I do believe that any technological development of the current time always reflects human race’s consciousness(and/or unconsciousness) that penetrates the same period of time. In other words, the technology can only be developed up to the level of human consciousness. Why this is important is that we at this moment also need philosophical or cosmological narratives to prepare for the fast approaching new economical paradigm. The reason why slaves and serfdom were able to exist was because of the theological frame of The Great Chain of Being molded and strengthened by St. Thomas Aquinas in the medieval period. Likewise, theological and philosophical frames molded by such Enlightenment philosophers as Martin Luther, John Locke, John Calvin, Adam Smith and later such Utilitarian philosophers as David Hume and Herbert Spencer were properly introduced to explain how Capitalism was able to penetrate people’s consciousness providing them with the foundation to work dynamically for the new economic paradigm.

Second, for the same reason as above, I enjoyed the author’s ending chapter under ‘Biosphere Consciousness.’ If most of us living on earth in our current time can deeply relate to this narrative, it means we are ready to dynamically move on to create new reality under new paradigm.

If we have passed from mythological consciousness to theological consciousness to ideological consciousness to psychological consciousness and have extended our empathic drive from blood ties to religious affiliations to national identities and associated communities, is it not possible to imagine the next leap in the human journey-a crossover into biosphere consciousness and an expansion of empathy to include the whole of the human race as our family, as well as our fellow creatures as an extension of our evolutionary family? -from Biosphere Consciousness, Chapter 15. The Sustainable Cornucopia, p.369

Third, boldness in his assertions. This book can be considered provocative. Even if we have witnessed the disappearance of big players in publishing, entertainment, and communication industries due to the near zero marginal cost phenomenon that the Internet had brought, we cannot easily be bought into the idea that capitalist economy will disappear and will be replaced with the Collaborative Commons. However, in fact, it’s not impossible. It’s just that we feel scared by his audacity since we feel we are not prepared at all individually and collectively.

Fourth, vast knowledge and extensive cases across almost all industries. If you are an entrepreneur who is eager to know what’s coming in the future and ready to push yourself into the future, this book is perfect. Lots of information and real cases on potential opportunities on Social Economy are illustrated. As the author claims, the giant vertically integrated capitalists will lose ground gradually in the new economic order. And lots of prosumers and social entrepreneurs will prosper filling the void. You can see which industry will die and how future employment map will be reshaped through this book.

Fifth, the implementation cases of smart-grid in India were very inspirational. I sense that the new economic paradigm under IoT will dramatically improve the wealth map of poor countries and developing world where the capitalism was unable to reach. Such poor and devastated hard-to-reach countries in Africa, rural areas in India and China will greatly benefit from the IoT and green energy. No wonder, I can understand why Mr. Lee Keqiang in China was deeply impressed by the author’s book and started driving the Third Industrial Revolution.

  • What I Didn’t Enjoy From This Book

First, I disagree that capitalism will disappear. I would like to say capitalism will evolve in the form of Capitalism 3.0 or so. There are many factors to consider when you describe economic models and systems. The author focused mainly on Energy/Communication/Transportation and Organization matrices because he thought they were the common drivers found in history that enabled the shift from old regime to new regime. Also, the three aspects the author highlighted-producers were stripped of production tools, producers were changed to wage laborer under capitalist, owners of capital stripped of management and control-may seem to be dissolved under the new economic paradigm under the Collaborative Commons but certainly there are more driving forces and factors than those that have to be addressed and explained to justify the shift to a new economic regime.

Second, the author’s picture of the economy of abundance for the future economic model seems simple and naive. Look at the current speculative dynamics of crypto-currency such as Bitcoin. If we follow the author’s vision, those alternative cyber currencies should be practically utilized at this moment but they are not. What does this mean? Human greed that drove the capitalism model into bust in the form of Great Recession is still vividly ingrained in human nature and affecting their behavior. The scarcity mindset is still very alive. Instead of seeking happiness, the human race is still chasing profit-the jackpot profit-the symbol of capitalism. Also, who can proudly say the numerous technological startups on the Commons are not chasing the jackpot? They are happily anticipating the moment when their startup ideas will be sold in hefty amount or publicly traded through IPO, making them billionaires.

Third, the confusion and dissolving nature of the Sharing Economy is missed in this book. The prosumer is good. But it also means the conceptual and behavioral boundaries are not clear. Look at the Uber’s business model. The owner of the car is also the producer of the service to gain the economic profit. The boundary is not clearly defined resulting in confusion and crimes. I doubt the members or users of Airbnb or Uber or other Social services recognize and share the same lofty visions such as save resources or recycle. Their simple motivation can be just to make a profit. I was very surprised when I read an article that Uber’s drivers tried to create a labor union. What does this mean? There are so many factors and issues to address and overcome in the coming future. Proper governance and regulations need to be set up to protect the innocent participants, which means ‘us,’ to catch up with this new reality and it takes time. And I believe it will take a lot of time and arduous efforts.

CLOSING

Vast in knowledge and extensive in coverage of what’s happening in current technology and business arena, this book is certainly a good intellectual journey and is a good read that provides readers a chance to seriously contemplate on the coming economic future. Though the author’s framework used in developing and persuading his bold statements regarding eclipse of capitalism and emergence of the Collaborative Commons is rather narrowly focused on certain aspects, his good attempts to find the narratives that can explain the new paradigm provide good insights and his broad intellectual explorations overall will leave an impressive mark to readers.

——————————————————————

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK:

Economists, Policy Makers, Entrepreneurs, Start-Ups, Business Leaders from Industry

RATING: 4 out of 5

RECOMMENDED CATEGORIES:

Business, Economics, History, Technology, Strategy, Entrepreneurship

ABOUT THE BOOK

Author(s): Jeremy Rifkin

Published: 2014, USA

Publisher: Palgrave and Macmillan

Paperback, 380 pages

 

 

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