dimanche 19 juillet 2015

Third industrial revolution?

Well yes, a big shift in economy is happening in our digital era. Economy is moving from a centralized production system to a more distributed one with the help of internet and information technology. It means that people exchange directly goods and services without the direct need of traditional intermediate corporations. I will illustrate this shift through examples from different sectors:
  • Transportation: Uber is destabilizing the taxi industry by its model where non professional drivers serve directly passengers with a sexy and real time mobile application. Before Uber, car pooling was growing for inter cities transportation and thus competing lightly with trains & buses.
  • Hospitality: With the same spirit, AirBnb is threatening the established business of hotel chains, especially on the low-end tourism market. Couchsurfing also took a part of this market somehow.
  • Energy: Consumers are called to be micro producers through solar energy for example. Energy production would be managed intelligently with smart grids and moreover with connected objects.
  • Consumer Goods:  We are witnessing the emergence of websites praising the reuse of consumer goods such as: toys, tools, high tech products... and more generally products that are not used frequently so people rather prefer to rent it. Some even say that this pushing the notion of private property to disappear!
  • IT: Instead of centralized datacenters, a new buzz word is here: fog computing. A more distributed architecture than cloud computing, where end devices stores and process information. I was especially impressed by the French Startup Qarnot Computing who proposes computing capacity through its distributed servers in households. Their brilliant idea is heating households using installed servers!
  • Finance: Who of us didn't participate through crowdfunding to help the project of an association? the launch of music album? the new idea of a startup? Banks/business angels/love money will not stay the exclusive ways of funding ventures.
Some, like Jeremy Rifkin, call this shift a revolution, the revolution of "commons", a "croudsourced" economy that seems more just and equal. Well, I do not share this point of view. I think that distributed model disrupt the structure of the players in our market based economy, but it does not change the capitalist nature of this economy: private property, seek for profit, class differences... indeed, the established corporations (see above for examples) will loose power to new players who control information. If we take the example of hospitality industry, well yes some big hotel chains will hardly survive in front of Airbnb, but this online platform would behave just as its old competitors: hire employees, look for profitability, compete to have a monopole...

Nevertheless, this shift might provide a good basis for a real conscious revolution on how we manage economy today.  When individuals are more involved in the production system, not as work-providers but as contributors, they will want to contribute also to decision making. What is really missing is a distributed decision making, a real democracy! Digital revolution is a wonderful opportunity for achieving this. I like very much the example of an Argentinian political party (Partido de la red) who's representatives only vote in parliament what people has decided online (Democracy OS).

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