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on 16 February 2015
This book is so badly written that several times I almost stopped reading it. I then skim-read most of it, and it doesn't deserve more. Clearly it isn't written by Rifkin but by a couple of reseach assistants, neither of whom arer good at writing simply in plain English. Nor has it been edited to reduce a lot of repetition and overlap in the chapters.
The internet of things is not nearly such a big deal as Rifkin makes out and a lot of the stats are almost irrelevant. The 'future of technology' is always different from what people like Rifkin predict.
The one big idea in the book, that the internet of things and associated technology will enable humans to increase the efficiency of their energy use from 13% towards 40%, is both madly optimistic and completely unjustified by any evidence or calculations.
The collaborative commons is indeed happening, but the most interesting stuff isn't to do with 'economics' at all, it's the redefinition of the artistic enterprise to define it, as it was until recently, as a gift.
The book is worth 50 or 60 pages: an essay. The rest is waffle, and badly written waffle too.
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on 4 June 2017
A must read for anyone interested in the future of Commons Economics. Jeremy Rifkin is a futurist who has spent alot of time thinking about the past and how the present will reshape our future.
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on 19 March 2016
A must read for any intellectual and/or transitional philosopher; in fact, for everyone out there. Style: cobbled together, incoherent. Content: in this case, it is the idea that counts.
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on 12 June 2017
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on 11 July 2014
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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on 3 June 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.

Rifkin is putting forward a thesis so large in scope that he has to range over many subjects; he does a good job of reporting the current thinking on a given issue and fills it out with interview and anecdote to make it accessible, but he can’t do justice equally to all the material. He is a specialist in some areas but critics will find it easy to pick holes as he has striven for some sense of completeness that just isn’t there. I admire him for the attempt to put this vision together and in doing so he has got a lot right and poses some interesting questions which, weather right or wrong, is a very good exercise for us all.
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on 22 July 2014
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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on 20 June 2014
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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on 8 January 2017
This is probably Jeremy Rifkin's crowning achievement, pulling together a vast amount of research, technology, economics and human history into a coherent, highly readable book which offers accounts of how we got to where we are today as well as myriad visions of a bright future for humanity without dumbing down, avoiding macro problems or overly simplyfying.

It stacks up very well in comparison to books like Postcapitalism by Paul Mason and Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford. It is particularly notable for it's consistent application of economics as part of it's analysis primarily tackling the tendency of internet based services profit margins declining towards zero and then extrapolating that this tendency is not limited to internet services alone.
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on 19 May 2014
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 services that we consume. The irony of it all is as Rifkin says, is that the success of capitalism leads to its own demise; something he by no means regrets. Underscoring the complex, the good and the bad within the capitalist system, (environmental degradation, exploitation of. Workers etc) he is hopeful of the coming era of abundance, an idea made possible by the coming together of various networks , allowing products, services and communications to be scaled laterally rather than centrally. A rather mixed obituary of an economic system, but a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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