people who care more about social capital than market capital, and who
think access is more valuable than ownership, will increasingly disrupt
established businesses and transform economies, according to economic
and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin.
Rifkin is the author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, a new book that describes how the emerging Internet of Things
is propelling us toward an era of nearly free goods and services and
how a growing culture of sharing rather than owning is speeding the
growth of a global Collaborative Commons. And those forces, he says, will mean the eclipse of capitalism as we know it.
In an essay posted at CommonDreams.org, Rifkin cites opinion surveys by Latitude Research
reporting 75 percent of respondents believe their sharing of physical
objects and spaces will increase in the next five years; 78 percent said
online interactions have made them more open to sharing with strangers;
and 85 percent think the web and mobile technologies will help build
large scale sharing communities.
In a New York Times essay,
Rifkin identifies what he calls "a paradox at the heart of capitalism."
He says the "inherent dynamism of competitive markets" is bringing
costs so far down that many goods and service are becoming cheap,
plentiful and no longer subject to market forces. He says that began
with peer to peer file sharing that let people bypass conventional
sources for entertainment and information. He predicts many giant
enterprises in a variety of commercial sectors won't survive the trend.
is a six-year-old start up that has booked three million guests for 10
million nights in 33,000 cities in 192 countries. This year, Rifkin
writes, Airbnb expects to fill more rooms than the Hilton
InterContinental hotel chain -the world's largest hotel operation. Airbnb
connects people who want to earn income by renting out their unused
space and people looking for interesting, inexpensive temporary lodging.
The website offers accommodations that range from rooms and apartments
to boats and tree houses. Its biggest competitor, Couchsurfing.org
is described on its website has a global community of 7 million people
in more than 100,000 cities who "share their life, their world, their
members provide free space to each other, and emphasize the opportunity
for social interaction. Rifkin says more than 19.1 million friendships
have developed from couchsurfing visits.
A multitude of websites offer sharing and renting of cars, toys, tools, and clothing for children and adults. Tie Society is a subscription service for men who can receive and exchange the high-end fashion accessories for as little as $11 a month. The Freecycle Network is a nonprofit that claims more than seven million members world wide and allows users to give away used items for free.
not surprising that a younger generation that grew up recycling
plastic, glass and paper would turn to recycling items they own," Rifkin
writes. "The notion of optimizing the life cycle of items in order to
reduce the need to produce more partially used goods has become second
nature to young people for whom sustainability is the new frugality."
thinks The Internet of Things, a recent phenomenon based on a
technology platform that is beginning to connect everyone to everything,
has potential to create a new economic model in which collaborative
consumption outpaces owning. According to WhatIs.com, a thing, in the Internet of Things (IoT), can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low -- or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. Rifkin
writes that today, more than 11 billion sensors are attached to things
and feeding data into the IoT. People can connect to the network and use
available tools to access a huge range of products and services. Rifkin
calls IoT a game changer that will allow a collaborative commons to
flourish alongside conventional commercial markets.