Economist Jeremy Rifkin, graduate in International Relations and lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, took part this afternoon in the Àgora Agbar auditorium in Cornellà de Llobregat in the latest edition of the Water Circle.
In his conference, entitled ‘Towards the Third Industrial Revolution and a zero marginal cost society’, Rifkin stressed the need for progress towards a new model ‘based on the Internet, the collaborative economy and renewable energies’ to overcome the current recession in Europe. The American economist considers introducing this new paradigm a priority, to limit the effects of climate change and combat unemployment. ‘We have to change our mentality. The increase in the price of oil in 2008 caused an economic collapse that demonstrated the need to switch to a new model to supersede the Second Industrial Revolution’.
In this new paradigm, ‘everything will be shared and interconnected’. To achieve this, he noted that ‘it is necessary to digitalise infrastructures, including transport, energy and water. These networks must be interconnected and intelligent’. In Jeremy Rifkin’s opinion, the Internet of Things allows us to manage enormous amounts of data, so-called big data. ‘By placing sensors in numerous points in our infrastructures, we can monitor a large amount of data and information. If we carry on like this, we will have global connectivity in just a few years. This external brain will enable us to manage big data, which would represent a change of paradigm. The collaborative and zero marginal cost economy is the new economy, which in the next few years will exist alongside the capitalism of the Second Industrial Revolution’, he stated.
The other pillar of this paradigm is green energy, for various reasons: it limits the effects of climate change; it has zero marginal cost (‘the sun and the wind do not send us bills’, he commented); it allows us to provide clean energy to all humanity; and if we are capable of storing it in buildings, we could use it to obtain information. In addition, this energy is essential for moving water, in the same way as water generates energy. This relationship is linked to climate change; hence, as Rifkin noted, ‘it is a fundamental asset in this new model’.
With respect to this sector, Jeremy Rifkin stressed the importance of the reuse of water, in line with the concept of the circular economy. The introduction of sensors to obtain information on the state of supply and sewerage networks and the spread of global positioning systems (GPS) are essential to make management of the complete water cycle more intelligent and efficient. In addition, he believes that companies in this sector must be resilient to withstand disruption in the system. In this context, Aigües de Barcelona already has a management system to guarantee continuity of service in the event of unexpected incidents (more information in this news item).
Manuel Cermerón, Agbar’s Director of Strategy and Development, introduced the speaker and the CREA space, an innovative space in Agbar’s headquarters which fosters the collaborative environment to share knowledge and generate ideas and innovation, as the economist described in the Water Circle today. The space, which opened in November 2015, has hosted more than 50 events, including the talks on the COP21 Paris Agreement, conferences on controlling the water footprint and collaborative workshops for the sustainable management of water and social innovation. After the conference, which was live tweeted over the Agbar Foundation and #CercleAigua accounts, Maria Salamero, Agbar’s Director of Innovation and Knowledge, chaired a debate on the challenges of the Third Industrial Revolution and the water sector in the context of this new model.