miércoles, 18 de febrero de 2015

"The Zero Marginal Cost Society" by Jeremy RifKin

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of CapitalismThe Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeremy Rifkin is one of the most visionary writers about what we called the digital society. In previous works he forecasted the end of work and the raise of the access society. Therefore, it would be highly risky for policy makers, in particular, and the society, in general, to ignore the contain of his last book, "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", although he is forecasting something so bold as the end of capitalism.

After more than two centuries since Adam Smith wrote "The wealth of the nations", capitalism is so embeded in our vision of life that we think it has been always the more spreaded economic system. Nevertheless, this is not true. Not only in the XX century capitalism was sieged by comunism, previously to its existance there were other forms of organizing the economic activity. Rifkin heralded the return of one of them, the commons, on the shoulders of the ubiquitous Internet. What is more, Rifkin concludes that the usage of Internet as one of the tools for the development of an extreme form of capitalism through the continuous raise of productivity based on automatisation will be the end of capitalism itself. At the end of the road of the continuous increase of productivity will be zero marginal cost production. The advent of zero marginal cost will imply the dissapearance of the marketplace, the cornerstone of capitalism.

Although I selected this reading lured by the brave proposal of the author, maybe he is not so right in his forecast as in his other books. The internet connectivity has certainly be the diriver of the development of the sharing economy, but I am not sure that this will bring a resurrection of the commons. The more outstanding example of a sharing economy business, Uber, looks more as new model of capitalism exploitation of cheap labour than the first step of the surge of a commons for transport. Could Uber be only the swan song of capitalism? Is Uber a futile attempt of capitalism to survive in the age of the commons? I would like to think so, but I suppose we should wait some years to see if Uber is the future model a predominant new version for capitalism or only its last mutation.

Anyway, this last book of Rifkin, as any of his other books, deserve a reading. It is said that a pessimistic is an optimistic well informed, however this book give us the hope of being optimistic because we are well informed of the last consequences of the digital revolution.

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