Thursday, October 29, 2015

How the Third Industrial Revolution Will Create a Green Economy

The article starts out by giving a “state of the union” of the world, highlighting the world’s decreasing productivity, high unemployment, extreme income inequality, and a rapid acceleration of global warming, as some of the largest challenges facing humanity in the early 21st century. Next, it delves into the issue of global warming for a bit, stressing the importance of slowing down the rate at which green house gases are emitted into the atmosphere, and if at all possible completely reversing it. If ignored, the earth will go through several decades of increasing intensity of weather and storms, culminating in 2100 when temperatures will reach a tipping point and start the sixth extinction event in earth’s history. Here is where the article actually gets relevant and begins to use information technologies to help solve these problems; “Digital Europe” is an initiative created by the EU, to make Europe “the most ecologically sustainable society on Earth” through the use of big data.
The first thing I’d like to emphasize is Europe’s plan to put sensors on EVERYTHING; they’ll put a sensor on every device, appliance, and object that they can in order to create what they are calling the “Internet of Things”. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be over 100 trillion sensors connecting everything from animals, to cars, to toys, etc., everything will have a sensor in the future laying the ground for some exciting new advances. The “internet of things” will create what’s called a “near zero marginal cost” and what this is, is when a company creates an additional unit there is always some sort of cost associated with creating this additional unit, called marginal cost; “the internet of things can use big data and analytics to develop algorithms that speed efficiency, increase productivity, and dramatically lower the marginal cost of producing and distributing goods and services”. Finally, with the rise of the internet of things and near zero marginal cost, the “sharing economy” flourishes, companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, all champions of big data analytics, will see their business models used over and over again, by companies leaving the old unconnected economy, and joining the ultimate connected economy, where everything can be tracked, observed, and quantized.

One issue I had with the article is that the author seems to think of near zero marginal cost is killer of industries, but in fact, just lowers costs buying these goods for the consumer. Another problem I had with this article is that once we implement this “internet of things”, the author acts like the issues of global warming, and income inequality will be solved, in reality, it has very little to do with green house gas emission. Finally, I think the timeline for a full-scale usage of the “internet of things” is too fast; it will take a while for people to become comfortable with the idea of being tracked in all facets of their lives.

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