The second big idea of the sixth is the shift towards service. The distinction between the things we consume and the things we use is a fundamental one for the sixth wave. We use a car but don’t consume it. We consume food rather than simply using it. The world of consumables and the world of technology and tools have become known as the biosphere and the technosphere respectively, and both have a very different future ahead of them.
Dividing our world into the biosphere and technosphere gives us greater insight into why we are consuming resources unsustainably. In the biosphere humanity has a reasonably small footprint (the biomass of humans is one-tenth of that of ants, for instance) and our waste products are, in theory, entirely recyclable. However, we have allowed a whole range of things in the technosphere to drift into the biosphere, things that consume resources and produce waste products.
To consume the smallest amount of resources possible and produce the minimum amount of waste, everything in the biosphere – the things we consume – will trend towards being fully recyclable, or closed-loop. On the other hand, everything in the technosphere – the things we employ but which do not necessarily involve irreversible consumption of a tangible resource – will trend towards becoming a service.