Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, is the author of seventeen books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society and the environment. Jeremy has just published his latest book, entitled The Empathic Civilization: Rethinking Human Nature in the Biosphere Era.
The futurist and activist argues that we are 'hard wired' to care about, aid and co-operate with others. Indeed, he shows we are now regularly doing so on a global scale. Unfortunately, the very economic and technological systems that allow us this vast reach are also destroying the biosphere.
With our hyper-complex society facing multiple failures as a result of energy depletion and potentially devastating climatic changes, Jeremy believes that only a "third industrial revolution" can steer us into a sustainable future.
The industrial and social revolution he envisions (and promotes through his Foundation on Economic Trends) is premised on distributed renewable energy systems managed through global collaborative social networks.
As the author of 17 books (quite a few of which explicitly inform this one), Rifkin presents findings from across a wide range of disciplines that demonstrate our tendency towards empathy.
He follows this with a survey of Western history based on this view before outlining what he sees as contemporary trends (such as rapid urbanization and unprecedented global migration) leading to the empathetic culture he says can help us avert disaster.
Rifkin builds this case on his classification for the evolution of human consciousness that links energy and communication regimes. Accordingly, human-powered oral cultures nurtured a mythic consciousness and wood-burning script cultures a theological consciousness, while the coal-era print culture was an age of ideology.
Our rapidly aging petroleum-based electronic culture evolved what he dubs a psychological consciousness, in which Freud, Jung and others pioneered new ways to conceive of our own identities and interrelationships.
Now, he suggests that we are heading into a renewably powered digital and "dramaturgical" consciousness in which, to paraphrase Shakespeare, all the world will be our stage.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017