Vacation is a good time to read things that you can never get to while working. My list is quite long but I scanned it and took a copy of “The ZERO Marginal Cost Society” by Jeremy Rifkin to the beach. Now Forrester has a lot of focus on digital disruption, helping enterprises avoid being disrupted by new digitally based business models. We write about business agility, how to drive better customer experiences through mobile, social, and cloud. But we pretty much stop at what disruption means to an enterprise, as these are our clients.
Jeremy Rifkin takes the digital disruption concept to its ultimate end state, and projects the effect on the entire economic system. He paints a somewhat murky but thought provoking picture of where this all leads. The basic idea? Digital alternatives, fueled by the Internet of things, big data, the sharing economy, 3D printing, AI and analytics, will drive the marginal cost of producing a product or service to near 0 and this disrupts the entire capitalist system. Established companies can't generate profit, emerging companies can only maintain temporary advantage, and people don’t have “real jobs” anymore. They ride the wave that he calls “the democratization of innovation” that works outside of traditional business and government.
He uses examples of where digital disruption has attacked slices of the economy, which others have done extensively, but he extrapolates to a world where digital disruption fundamentally alters the current economic system. According to Rifkin the transformation will occur over the next 50 years. He has a name for the new model – Collaborative Commons – a completely connected, and distributed world of extreme productivity that overtakes the shrinking capitalist system. The key word here is collaboration and we see this growing as we share cloths, cars, and exchange goods and services via social media, distribute free software, and content. The good news – a new set of metrics will replace our obsessive GDP focus, One that captures social value, ties to the environment, and individual happiness.
Pretty powerful vision and well described – as always with these types of books – a little repetitive. Next trip to the beach I’ll grab something a bit lighter.