Vice documentary 'The Third Industrial Revolution' explores how sharing creates a sustainable world

Call it "An Inconvenient Truth" for the market economy. In "The Third Industrial Revolution," American economic and social theorist, business school professor, and policy adviser Jeremy Rifkin lays out a bleak vision of a near-future world devastated by climate change, mass extinctions, slow economic growth, and rising levels of extremism and inequality. "This is no longer imminent; it's at the door and in the house," Rifkin says, giving a lecture to an audience of several dozen people at an undisclosed location in Brooklyn, New York, before launching into a Q&A session. "If it were fully explained, our human family would be terrified."

Over the course of the filmed lecture, Rifkin charts a course out of the quagmire. For Rifkin, creating a more sustainable world within the next two generations is necessary for humankind's continued survival. This sustainable world, he says, will depend on increasing interconnectedness between people, places, and objects. Youth engagement, the Internet of things, renewable energy, and the sharing economy will play pivotal roles. Together, they will create a network of data hubs in buildings and vehicles, powered by renewable energy, generating data that can be mined by app developers to create useful, shared tools. The end result, Rifkin says, will be a "distributed nervous system that will allow everyone on the planet at low cost to engage directly with each other."

This model "works best when it's collaborative and open, and more and more people join the network and contribute our talent," he says, referring to already-existing examples of open-source knowledge-sharing networks, such as Wikipedia and Massive Open Online Courses. Widening the network would open the door for a "vast, vast expansion of social entrepreneurialism," he says. "You already spend part of your day in the market economy, and part of it in the sharing economy with car sharing and Wikipedia." The sharing economy, he says, "as murky as it is now, is the first real new economic system since capitalism and socialism… I don't think capitalism will disappear, but it will find value by developing a relationship with the sharing economy."

He posits that the shift in perspective created by the sharing economy — from a focus on owning property to a focus on accessing goods, services, and experiences — will lead to a renewed awareness of the interconnectedness of everything on Earth, and a more sustained response to the troubles the planet is facing.

"We have one generation to lay down biosphere consciousness," Rifkin says. "No other generation has had this weight, one generation called upon to save the species. We need to join together in the virtual and physical world to make this happen."  

Fittingly, the feature-length documentary itself, distributed by Vice Media, has been made available for free on YouTube. Watch it here.

Header image is a screenshot from the film

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