The Logistics Internet: Shipping Will Never Be the Same

Economic and Social Theorist
Economic theorist and author Jeremy Rifkin explains his concept of The Logistics Internet, which will streamline and make more efficient the means by which we haul items across the world. Rifkin's latest book is The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism.
  • Transcript


 Jeremy Rifkin: The communication Internet is something that's ubiquitous.  We're using it 24 hours a day. All of us have our cell phones and our desktop computers and we're generating information in the form of audio, video and text and we're sharing it with friends, we're sharing it with the world in a communication network that's designed to be distributive, collaborative and that favors peer-to-peer production.

Now that communication Internet is converging with this very nascent energy Internet where we're now able to generate our own green electricity distributed, collaborative, peer-to-peer, and share it with the help of the communication Internet.  We create an energy Internet, a transmission line has become an Internet.  And now the third component, we are just beginning to see the first glimpse of an automated transport and logistics Internet and then the whole package is complete.  Right now logistics is a pretty inefficient business.  If you take a look across the United States like other countries and you look at a truck on the road, sometimes those trucks are empty; they're deadheading back.  They've taken their cargo and then there's nothing on the trip back or they only have 20 or 30 percent of that truck filled.

Right now our logistics system is not coordinated into a network.  There are thousands of warehouses and distribution centers.  But every company usually has only five or ten of these warehouses somewhere in the country.  So they have to take their trains or their trucks all the way to where their handful of centers are.  But what would happen if all the thousands of warehouses and distribution centers, privately owned, came together in a cooperative network? So if you're General Electric or Walmart or whoever or a small prosumer, a small to medium-size company, you would have access to any one of those warehouses when they have surplus space and you could move your transport only where you needed it in real time instead of going to a few centralized warehouses across 3000 miles.  But to do that you'd have to have common protocols where everything is standardized so you could get your packages through in the same containers with radio recognition technology like Federal Express has so you know where your freight is and your package at any given moment on a supply chain.

And then we're now starting to move towards driverless vehicles.  They'll be in mass production within five to ten years everywhere according to the six major auto companies.  And so we'll be able to have a transport system where we power vehicles from energy from our energy Internet and we'll power our electric vehicles and fuel-cell cars, trucks and buses powered by hydrogen, all of that from our energy Internet at near zero marginal cost to transport it.  That's already here in parts of Europe.  We now have electric vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles powered with energy that's near zero marginal costs.  In a few years they'll be driverless reducing the cost even further.  And so this transport and logistics Internet is connecting with the energy Internet and the communication Internet, which provides the data, in one system.  It is a game changer. It is one of the great technology revolutions in history.  It's going to change our entire way of life every single person.

What it mainly means is it's the democratization of everything.  This means millions of people and soon billions of people they're not going to have to rely on the goodwill of a handful of globally integrated large vertically integrated companies for the main stuff of life.  We've now freed ourselves with information to near zero marginal cost.  Millions of us are producing and sharing with each other and we now have the first early adopters that are now producing their own green electricity at near zero marginal cost, millions of them already and we're just starting to see a transport and logistics Internet that could get us to near zero marginal cost.  This is the democratization of everything and it's going to change the economic model.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton