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The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism [Hardcover]

Jeremy Rifkin
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2014
The capitalist era is passing - not quickly, but inevitably. Rising in its wake is a new global collaborative Commons that will fundamentally transform our way of life. Ironically, capitalism’s demise is not coming at the hands of hostile external forces. Rather, The Zero Marginal Cost Society argues, capitalism is a victim of its own success. Intense competition across sectors of the economy is forcing the introduction of ever newer technologies. Bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin explains that this competition is boosting productivity to its optimal point where the marginal cost of producing additional units is nearly zero, which makes the product essentially free. In turn, profits are drying up, property ownership is becoming meaningless, and an economy based on scarcity is giving way to an economy of abundance, changing the very nature of society.

Rifkin describes how hundreds of millions of people are already transferring parts of their economic lives from capitalist markets to global networked Commons. "Prosumers" are producing their own information, entertainment, green energy, and 3-D printed products at nearly zero marginal cost, and sharing them via social media sites, rentals, redistribution clubs, bartering networks, and cooperatives. Meanwhile, students are enrolling in massive open online courses (MOOCs) that also operate at near-zero marginal cost. And young social entrepreneurs are establishing ecologically sensitive businesses, crowdsourcing capital, and even creating alternative currencies in the new sharable economy. As a result, "exchange value" in the marketplace - long the bedrock of our economy - is increasingly being replaced by "use value" on the collaborative Commons.

In this new era, identity is less bound to what one owns and more to what one shares. Cooperation replaces self-interest, access trumps ownership, and networking drubs autonomy. Rifkin concludes that while capitalism will be with us for at least the next half century, albeit in an increasingly diminished role, it will no longer be the dominant paradigm. We are, Rifkin says, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together collaboratively and sustainably in an increasingly interdependent global Commons.

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The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism + The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World + The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (1 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1137278463
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137278463
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 15.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Admirable in its scope...what makes "The Zero Marginal Cost Society" worth reading is its audacity, its willingness to weave a vast string of developments into a heartening narrative of what our economic future may hold for the generations to come. You can call it naive, but it's much more than that. It's hopeful."--"Fortune" "A thought-provoking read that pushes some of the most important new technologies to their logical-and sometimes scary-conclusions...The value of this book... doesn't lie in the accuracy of its specific forecasts, but rather in the extrapolations of current trends that enable Rifkin to reach them. If Rifkin's predictions have value... it is in bringing home the extent of the technologically induced upheaval that may lie ahead. How we deal with the consequences is up to us. A grand unifying theory of [Rifkin's] thinking over four decades." --"The Financial Times""" "[An] illuminating new book...Rifkin is very good on the historical origins of the giant, vertically integrated organizations that dominated the 20 Century economy. [He] makes a powerful case that from a longer-term perspective, it is these giant hierarchies that are the anomalies of economic history. The shredding of vertical value chains, the creation of vast new horizontal value chains, and the social change of people preferring access to ownership...bring massive economic and social changes to business and society, the implications of which [are] only beginning to be glimpsed. For Rifkin, the shifts are positive and huge."--"Forbes""Jeremy Rifkin offers an ambitious and optimistic image of how a commons-based, collaborative model of the economy could displace industrial capitalism when the economic and social practices of the Internet are extended to energy, logistics, and material fabrication. Even skeptical readers, concerned with the ubiquitous surveillance and exquisite social control that these same technologies enable, should find the vision exhilarati

Book Description

The New York Times bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin explores how today's extreme constant collaboration, paired with no cost manufacturing technologies, are propelling the end of capitalism

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Birolli
Format:Kindle Edition
I am posting this on the bases not only of reading this, but to counterbalance the ridiculous earlier comment.

This book details and explores fundamental shifts in the socio-economic sphere. The author delves into many of the recent and emerging trends we see such as crowd funding and explains how they work and what they mean for the rest of us.

Books like this sit astride the boundary between economic theory and social commentary thereby bringing underlying concepts and principles into focus and explaining them to us.

Its cogently written and interesting to economists and the general public. I am not an economist and find it helpful to have explained and contextualised recent developments on the web and in society at large.

I found the book interesting and forward looking much as Natural Capital was in 2000.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Wrong 3 Jun 2014
As a society, visions of utopia are very out of fashion; there are plenty of reasons to be despondent about the state of the world today and pessimistic about the future. But it is also easy to forget the great progress there has been for a large section of the human population in the last 50 years and this continues.

Zero Margin Cost is the cost of producing an extra item or service after the capital costs are covered. We have had glimpses of the ZMC society with the emergence of the information internet and peer to peer file sharing which has changed the financial relationship of artist and audience, producer and consumer. The Zero Margin Cost being the cost of replicating and distributing a film, audio track, book or piece of software. We are in the first phases of this shift in technology and Rifkin maps this out into the Third Industrial Revolution, TIR, based upon his analysis of the First and Second Industrial revolutions. He posits that to have an industrial revolution there needs to be a step change in communications, transport and energy. The information internet is here with mobile and wi-fi connectivity; renewable energy is also coming on stream but not linked to the extent of the communication internet and transport lagging behind. This Internet of Things integrates all of the building blocks for the ZMC society to ultimately transform Capitalism by removing the profit motive as society is forced to focus more on efficiency, thermodynamic efficiency, rather than being able to control the markets as is the case at the end of the Second Industrial period that we are now in. Capitalism out competing itself no less.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but the gets lost. 11 July 2014
By Mark D
I so wanted to like this book, and to start with it was very promising. Rifkin describes how the emergence of new technologies have impacted and changed society, from the past to the present. He also covers current emerging technology, such as the Internet of Things. It's as the book progresses that the plot starts to get lost.

It's quite clear that Rifkin has a passion - the Collaborative Commons. Unfortunately, to use the saying "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail", Rifkin sees the adoption of Commons everywhere, and it is the answer to everything. I got the feeling that he had taken a core concept (which, to be honest, is an interesting one), and then tried to fit it to any emerging technology. As someone who actually works in the IoT domain, I struggled to find many links between what we was describing and the actual way the technology of IoT is developing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The core idea in this book is that each economic age is defined by its communication, energy production and manufacturing systems. From horse and cart, through canals and trains to trucks. From man power through watermills, windmills, coal and oil. Rifkin then paints a fairly convincing picture of the next age defining technologies. Peer to peer communication on the internet, smart grid controlled locally produced renewable energy, 3d printers, laser cutters etc.

The problem is that is pretty much the whole substance of the book, making a prediction that existing growing technologies will see increasing uptake in the future isn't particularly exciting. The entire book is a brimming with fantastical claims about the future that have no research to back them up and mundane facts carefully referenced. There is also far too much self promotion, name dropping and references to Rifkin's consultancy work for my liking.

The book would be 5 star if he had done any actual research to backup his claims, for example what combination of cost/resolution/durability is needed for 3d printing manufacture to equal a cheap run of 5000 units knocked together in some outsourced factory? How much do people value the increased customization of this sort style of manufacturing vs traditional factory runs?

Without answering any interesting new questions this book was to me largely fluff, although it merits a 2nd star for at least being fluff on an interesting topic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read 20 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It explains the history of capitalism over the last 200 years and why the logic of capitalism is approaching its end game. How new technology is facilitating the emergence of a new more collaborative culture; that is both socially and ecologically more inclusive. A clear, incisive book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Future backwards?
Well grounded forward view of possible societies.
Published 10 days ago by Ed Jie
3.0 out of 5 stars Capitalism dying? Not without some mighty slaying....
I was about to order this book by 1-click, but then I thought I better read the reviews first. In the light of these I desisted, and would advise anyone to desist from buying as... Read more
Published 2 months ago by L. M. Hohmann
4.0 out of 5 stars We are seeing this happen right under our eyes
It is inevitable. We are seeing this happen right in front of our eyes. The traditional belief that we must prepare ourselves to be ‘employable’ is under threat. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read but hard to listen to the explanations of...
Very interesting read if you are into how technology can change the landscape of our world and what trends are beginning or have already begun. Read more
Published 3 months ago by J.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
Another excellent book on the economy with an alternative slant on the issues that face society. A good read for anyone interested in alternative ways forward for us all.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. A. C. Adkins
4.0 out of 5 stars liked it up to a point
The book gives a Uttopian view of the future

I thought the author was a bit unrealistic in his conclusions although it was well written
Published 4 months ago by peter daykin
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Inspirational
Full of many inciteful ideas on how our economic system will be transformed over the coming decades, making life ultimately more purposeful and meaningful than the goods and... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Seamus
1.0 out of 5 stars Bonkers
I heard Jeremy Rifkin on BBC Radio 4's Start the Week Mon 28th March, and though the bloke was absolutely bonkers, with about every second sentence coming out of his mouth being... Read more
Published 5 months ago by N. R. Postlethwaite
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