rifkin 3rd industrial revolution

Don’t read! Jeremy Rifkin: The Third Industrial Revolution

Yesterday I took the time to read Jeremy Rifkin‘s book ‘The Third Industrial Revolution‘. The main message of this book is quickly told:

Rifkin claims that fundamental economic change evolves with the confluence of a new communication technology and a new form of energy supply.

  • The first industrial revolution (19th century) was caused by the convergence of steam-power and letterpress printing.
  • The second industrial revolution (=20th century) can be attributed to electric communication and the combustion engine.
  • The third industrial revolution (which is – according to Jeremy Rifkin – currently happening = 21st century) is triggered by the co-occurence of the internet and renewable energies. And both elements promote the development of the local, collaborative and lateral societal and economic structures of the green economy

The foundation of the green economy consists of 5 pillars – each of which only functions in combination with the others:

  1. Transition from fossil to renewable energies
  2. Transformation of all buildings into mini generating plants
  3. Development and build-up of energy storage technologies and capacities (e.g. hydrogen)
  4. Capitalizing the internet technology for the development of a smart and bi-directional (peer-to-peer) energy-sharing-grid
  5. Transformation of the transportation system to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles

Honestly, that’s all you need to know about this book. If you feel like it, just read the second chapter of the book (“A new narrative“) and you get a short summary of what has to be achieved technology-wise in order to build a low-carbon economy.

The following 200 pages (in my German version) are filled with little content and a lot of ‘names dropping‘. Rifkin tries to make the reader believe that it was his genius and influence alone which triggered the European politicians’ actions towards energy transition and green economy. In a nutshell, the rest of the book is all about self-glorification and self-marketing.

IMHO that’s far from being credible. If I am mistaken, this would be the first “revolution” which was initiated by one single person.

What I really liked about the book is its overall very positive undertone. I am currently pretty disillusioned and frustrated about politics in general and environmental/ climate policy in specific. And the book reminded me of the fact that climate change is hardly questioned in Europe anymore and that there are (slow and small) steps into the right direction.

It might be the end of the world as we know it – but it is not the end of the world.

My conclusion: Don’t waste your time and don’t read this book. It is more than enough to listen to one of the summaries and interviews available, e.g. and here (youtube).