Review: The Zero Marginal Cost Society

3 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Capitalism (Good & Bad), Economics, Education (General), Information Society
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Jeremy Rifkin

3.0 out of 5 stars Never Mind the Total Cost Terminal Society, April 13, 2014

Books like this would make me crazy if I took them seriously. This is a fad book for shallow minds that have no clue about holistic analytics, true cost economics, or anything remotely resembling the humanities (which is to say, the preservation of the good from one generation to the next). This book is the singularity cult on crack. Buy the book, by all means, to understand how seriously stupid is now in vogue.

There are some clever (which is to say, fad of the day) observations in this book but they vary from wrong (MOOCs have a 4% completion rate and are absolutely useless to 90% or more of the five billion poor who do not have the time to do MOOCs) to incomplete — who crowd sources against corruption and waste? Part of the answer is in this book, but no more than 20%. I’ve raised the book from one to three stars on a second pass, but I am still irritated.

The one place where Rifkin and I are 100% in harmony is on free energy…but he pulls his punches. Free energy is here now but the “system” is intent on keeping energy expensive and the 99% in rentier status. To truly understand the alternative energies now in hand, there is no book available, but if you search for Sepp Hasslberger @ Phi Beta Iota you will be on the bleeding edge of intelligence with integrity on this one topic that is so vital to all of us.

Marginal Cost is the cost at scale after all the FIXED COSTS (little things like water, fuel, child labor, tax avoidance, imposed disease) have been “accounted for.” The problem with Rifkin’s book, which would be a great riff at a late night show where everyone is smashed beyond cognition, is that it discounts reality by 99%. This book is the epitome of what Dr. Russell Ackoff would call “doing the wrong things righter instead of the right thing.

I will offer just one example before linking to ten books that are all vastly more relevant to our needs than this one. The central device of our time (among the one billion rich — there is no room at the inn in Rifkin’s book for the five billion poor) is the smart telephone, with Apple and Samsung being “best in class” in Rifkin’s terms, which is to say, really really cool stuff at a really really low “visible” cost. What he does not tell you is that the human cost of these devices, rooted in manufacturing processes that expose hundreds of thousands of Chinese to benzine, a class one carcinogenic, is the eseential sentencing of all those people to life in a gulag followed by uncompensated death from lukemia. Search for YouTube Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics to see the 9:31 video Rifkin has never watched.

I’ve spent the last 40 years thinking about this stuff (as has Rifkin, whom I do enjoy as an intellectual fly swatter) but we are on different planets. My planet places humans before technology, guaranteed incomes before concentration of wealth, water before Monsanto, integrity before corruption, fairness before “free.” There is no free lunch, and that is Rifkin’s fatal presumption.

Here are ten other books at Amazon I recommend above this one if you actually want to make a difference into the next generation — this is “back to basics” stuff that gets lost in the free-rider cloud.

Earth Is Finite

Ecological Economics, Second Edition: Principles and Applications

Elites are Crooked to the Bone — Democracy is Not Passive

Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History

True Costs Matter

The True Cost of Low Prices: The Violence of Globalization

War is a Racket and a Crime Against All of Us

War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier

The USA Is Not a Democracy and We Do Not Have an Honest Government

National Suicide: How Washington Is Destroying the American Dream from A to Z

Culture Matters — We’ve Lost It

Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture

The Center of Gravity is a Mix of the Poor, Open Source, and Total Transparency of All Costs

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition

Our Existing Educational System is Corrupt, Ineffective, and Non-Scalable

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling

Water Matters — If You Don’t Calculate Virtual Water in Everything You Are An Idiot

Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource

There Are Solutions

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny

Reality bats last. Rifkin got lost on the way to the ballpark.

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth, & Trust (2012)

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