The Third Industrial Revolution
Okay, this is really interesting: the kind of organic community growth and spirit of sharing and mutual encouragement and progression that the Web brings, produces things like the Maker Movement, which is a beautiful burst of human creativity. These kind of things are the blooms of freedom, real freedom, freedom from ownership, associations in equality.
People are talking about a third industrial revolution. The key thing is that technology, and open source technology, maybe has the power to free the world from macro power, and distribute agency at the micro level, the people level.
The development of 3-D printing is moving very quickly, propelled by the activity of the open source software community, (the co-working and collaborative spirit involved is truly inspiring) and the infrastructure is forming to bring about a huge expansion of this activity, with access for ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Manufacturing with this method is what is called additive manufacturing, rather than subtractive manufacturing. It’s not taking a piece of something and cutting the pieces needed from it and making it into something, it’s building it up, layer by layer. The process can use as little as 10% of the raw material used in traditional subtractive technology and use much less energy than factory production, items can be produced at hugely reduced cost.
It’s reached this level.
This band couldn’t resist 3-D Design and Print magazine when we saw the TV advert, and we’re a little way into building our 3-D printer and using the Sketch-Up Make design programme, which can be downloaded for free. Maybe in time we can generate some decent Staneb merchandise.
Not to make any particular point, but we liked this quote from Russell Davies at the NEXT Technology Conference in Berlin:
Every truly interesting technology will be called pointless.
Indeed, we can just about remember thinking that about home computers, why would you want a computer in your home? We weren’t alone in thinking that.
We got really excited when we read an article by Jeremy Rifkin, the author of The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World
We sorely needed a bit of lateral power after the harrowing history we’d been immersed in. We haven’t read this book yet but we’ve read enough to get a gist. And we’d like to ask him if he’s read Progress and Poverty, actually, for all this gloriously chimes together. Certainly, what he is talking about has the potential to take us to a much better place, and perhaps bring about the conditions where the full expression of justice could be grasped and hauled into being.
Jeremy Rifkin writes an enthralling ten pages about the Third Industrial Revolution in the World Financial Review
In this piece he says:
Internet technology and renewable energies are beginning to merge to create a new infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution that will change the way power is distributed in the 21st century.
He’s talking about the creation of an Energy Internet, where hundreds of millions of people will be micro-energy producers, sharing green energy with each other like sharing a sound file. Houses as power stations? There are actually a million buildings in Germany now built to be just that, and Energy Internet systems as described are already being created there.
Rifkin describes five pillars this revolution is based on:
The five pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution are (1) shifting to renewable energy; (2) transforming the building stock of every continent into micro–power plants to collect renewable energies on-site; (3) deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies; (4) using Internet technology to transform the power grid of every continent into an energy internet that acts just like the Internet (when millions of buildings are generating a small amount of renewable energy locally, on-site, they can sell surplus green electricity back to the grid and share it with their continental neighbors); and (5) transitioning the transport fleet to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell green electricity on a smart, continental, interactive power grid.
And he’s talking about this in conjunction with the emerging technology of 3-D printing, additive manufacturing. And he talks about:
an indivisible technological platform—an emergent system whose properties and functions are qualitatively different from the sum of its parts. In other words, the synergies between the pillars create a new economic paradigm that can transform the world.
It’s definitely a world that needs transforming. All of the necessary components are rapidly developing, they are being worked on in the workshop of the connected world.
(And look at this! Desktop vinyl cutting on the horizon?)
When Internet communications manage green energy, every human being on earth becomes his or her own source of power, both literally and figuratively. Billions of human beings sharing their renewable energy laterally on a continental green electricity internet creates the foundation for the democratization of the global economy and a more just society.
We’re never going to settle for more just, we demand just. But all this starts to sound like an emancipating evolution, and big power will just melt away. The intuition is always that any human activity based on micro-organisation rather than macro is good, and also efficient and productive, and what is macro is necessarily tyrannical and wasteful, in every way. EF Schumacher talked of Gigantism, and one day we must read Small is Beautiful.
Jeremy Rifkin says:
The distributed nature of renewable energies necessitates collaborative rather than hierarchical command and control mechanisms. This new lateral energy regime establishes the organizational model for the countless economic activities that multiply from it.
Rifkin describes in this article the sooty sunset of the second industrial revolution, the centralised, big world, where everything had to be big, (and this is a big insight, too, about the bigness of the past) and talks about this giving way to a new distributed capitalism. And all of this, combined with the low energy demands of digital manufacturing:
adds up to a qualitative increase in energy efficiency beyond anything imaginable in the First and Second Industrial Revolutions. When the energy used to power the production process is renewable and also generated on site, the full impact of a lateral Third Industrial Revolution becomes strikingly apparent. Since approximately 84 percent of the productivity gains in the manufacturing and service industries are attributable to increases in thermodynamic efficiencies - only 14 percent of productivity gains are the result of capital invested per worker - we begin to grasp the significance of the enormous surge in productivity that will accompany the Third Industrial Revolution and what it will mean for society.
This doesn’t half sound hopeful, it’s definitely something cheering. New technologies, new ideas, will tumble out of this, as people’s energy and imagination is given expression, creating millions of real jobs, real economic activity, and mitigating biosphere distress.
All this has grown out of the miracle of the World Wide Web. The Web arose to be the global commons, there to give people access to knowledge and utility, and to each other’s fraternity and sympathy; it seems to exist in lieu of people’s share of the bounty of nature that is denied to them.
(And here are some interesting points from Andrew Keen, in an interview about his book The Internet is not the Answer.)
This is also a very interesting consideration from Paul Mason, who takes us through a journey through history, and he’s writing about the End of Capitalism. He references a late thought experiment of Karl Marx, and talks about the vital nature of information and its effect in the world, abundant information that wants to be free, it’s an irresistable, ultimately uncageable force. And how the price of everything that is touched by information is sent towards zero. How information must inevitably destroy dark limo capitalism as we know it. I think we can see effects of what he’s saying already.
And another thing which ties in here is Moore’s Law, which is an observation by Gordon E Moore of Intel, in 1975, that computing power naturally doubles every couple of years, an observation which has held true ever since.
There really is a fascinating idea in what Mason is saying. And we can comment here that, of course, this again illustrates the distinctness of land as an economic factor, because the one value of which isn't sent careering towards zero by contact with information is the value of land.
The principles of the Third Industrial Revolution can be the liberator of the Third World, with its abundant resources of natural energy. The spread of knowledge is the spread of power, given a place to stand. Power which is spread as evenly as the rays of the sun. The promise is of restoring agency to the people, to return to micro power in the world. Given a place to stand.
A place to stand is the precursor of everything. Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth, said Archimedes.
American satirist Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil's Dictionary, 1911, made what is an observation of the very obvious, which inescapably follows from the soon obvious observations of Henry George. He said, in the dictionary’s entry for Land:
LAND, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society.... Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.