Silence Pt. 1

Written by Alexander Greco

May 31, 2019

Three minutes. I told myself to keep my mind silent for three minutes, and then I could stop meditating for the day. Just three minutes of silence. Then, I quieted my mind. I listened to my breathing. I felt my body sitting against the ground beneath me. I listened to the groans of all my subtle aches and pains. I let my emotions drift through my mind, and noticed how anxious and frustrated I was. Then I imagined it all dissolving, and that I was alone with my consciousness.

I was alone. And I was quiet. And I was at peace.

And I remembered deciding to start meditation after the editor-and-chief of our small-time newspaper emailed me. It was something along the lines of, “Angela, I’m sending this as a warning in advance. You’ve done great here for the last few years, but you’re starting to fall apart a little. What’s going on? You’ve had three weeks of poor decision after poor decision. I don’t want to call you in–I don’t want this to become a ‘thing’—but I’ll have to if this keeps up.”

How do you respond to that? How do you deal with that? What do you do after that? I guess you get better, somehow—obviously—but what do you do to get better? I didn’t even know I’d been making “poor decision after poor decision”, no one had told me! And…

And I have to let go of that for right now.

Return to quiet.

Return to peace.

Return to being alone, and imagining myself dissolving.

I imagined that I was sitting with the silence, as a sort of friend and companion. I breathed in all my worries, where they filtered through my lungs like tarry particulates…

Then breathed out all the worries, retaining only peace and goodness…

Then breathed in all the worries…

Then breathed out.

Then breathed in.

Then breathed out.

Then a stray thought entered my mind.

Something trivial—something about a YouTube video I‘d watched the other day.

Well, I guess it was more the memory of the video popping up in my head, not so much the thought of the video. I could hear the two girls in the video talking in my head, then laughing. I think it was about Yoga?

Yoga would be good today—Yoga and meditation. And museli and dates—Ah! What a day that’d be… …but the carbs. Oh, the carbs! What if I slowly gain more and more weight eating more and more carbs? But museli and dates, those have good carbs, right? Fiber and whole grains, and good sugar. Is there such a thing as good sugar? As good carbs?

It doesn’t matter. We’ll think about it later.

Breathe in… my lungs expand with a windy whooshing sound…

Quiet the mind.

Breathe out… with a groaning relief of pressure.

Silence.

Breathe in…

…the worries, the anxieties, the troubles…

…breathe out…

…retaining peace and goodness…

…Breathe in.

Gently bring yourself back to a state of calm and quiet.

Gently.

Quietly.

In.

And out.

In…

Out…

And silence…

My dog. I forgot to feed my dog this morning.

Shit, that’s an important one. I need to do that this morning before for work. I should do that sooner than later, before I forget. I almost started standing up to go feed my dog, but then I remembered, and sat back down. In and out. In and out.

In and out.

I had listened to a podcast once, with the host and his guest talking for almost half an hour on how hard it is to get into meditation. They said for a while it’d be tough, but then you get to some sort of breakthrough, or you notice it getting easier, or you work out your own routine or technique or whatever—something personalized that works just for you. I wonder what’s not working for me? Because I keep getting distracted. I’d been sitting still for seventeen minutes, and I probably couldn’t keep my mind silent for more than thirty seconds. Seventeen minutes after I started meditating, I realized I’d wasted seventeen minutes, gained nothing, and had three minutes left to be “productive”.

I began meditation because I’d been having a slew of issues. I guess the tipping point was work, but really it was everything—it was a life riddled with problems like worms in an overripe apple.  It was not being able to sit still at work. It was not being able to focus while I wrote. It was acting anxiously around co-workers. It was making impulse-buys at the grocery store. It was getting on my phone at all hours of the day. It was—

Dingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingding—Tngk.

It was my wind-up alarm going off. Three minutes was over. That was that.

I sighed… Then… I sort of gave up for the day and stood up.

Before I leave, I’ll grab some food, maybe start listening to a podcast, and—oh! My dog! I still need to feed my dog. I hope he still has food left—he should, I bought some not too long ago (right? Didn’t I?). But I need to go to the grocery store anyway, I was almost out of milk, so I could grab some more then. Ooh, and after work today, maybe I could…

I opened the refrigerator.

The light didn’t come on, no Freon-infused air came out, and there was no sound of internal humming.

After a moment of hesitation, I closed the door. I walked around to the back of the refrigerator, and it was still plugged in. Huh.

I turned and looked at the microwave. There was no time on the microwave. There was no time on the oven either. Something had happened to the power, I suppose, but I wasn’t too worried. I figured I’d go check the breakers downstairs. My cellphone was laying on the kitchen counter, and I grabbed it before I began walking to my basement.

Along the way, I thought I’d check the time, maybe see if I got any Facebook notifications, see if anyone I subscribed to on YouTube posted something neat. But, my phone wouldn’t turn on. Strange. I thought I charged it overnight. It should be radiating with life right now. Maybe it was just turned off?

I held down the power button down. And I held it down. And I held it down. And I stopped at the doors to my basement. My phone wasn’t turning on. My heart dropped, but I consoled myself—I can just…

I can’t charge it. My power is gone. And I can’t go into the basement now, my only flashlight is on my phone.

Dread rolled through my body. I tried to calm myself down, tell myself how silly I was, but it didn’t help. I even felt like I might start panicking. What the fuck do I do now? My car! My car has a USB port. I’ll just turn my car on, plug my phone in, let it charge long enough that I can use the flashlight and check the breakers, then call someone and head to work. I walked back through my house, into my living room, grabbed a USB charging cable, my keys, and walked out the front door to my car.

When I pressed the button to unlock my car, nothing happened. I pressed it again, now coming to next to the car, and nothing happened. I put my key into the door lock and turned it. The door unlocked. I sat down in my car, put the key in the ignition, and turned the key. Nothing. Nothing happened. My heart skipped a beat. I told myself that nothing bad was happening, that this situation would sort of magically fix itself

I turned my key again. The situation wasn’t magically fixed.

I kept turning my key and turning my key, but the car refused to turn on. Finally, I reached down and pulled the little lever to pop the hood, then got out of the car and walked around to look under the hood. I knew next to nothing about cars, but upon first inspection everything seemed fine. I checked the battery terminals, and they seemed to be on pretty tight. I looked around at all the various parts, but I didn’t know what to look for. It seemed fine. That’s the best that I could say.

Dazed and panicking, I closed the hood. I tried not to worry. I tried not to begin stressing. I tried not to freak out and have an anxiety attack. I told myself it was silly to do a thing like that—I’m an adult, a modern adult, and I don’t have anything to worry about—but I couldn’t console myself. Then, from the edge of my peripheral vision, I saw them all. I looked up.

My house is at the very end of a cul-de-sac in a nice, suburban neighborhood. My street—my cul-de-sac—is pretty long. There’s quite a few houses on it, with quite a bit of distance between all of them. From where I live, I can see all the houses on my street without having to turn my head. From where I stood now, I saw people from at least half of the houses standing on their front yards, their driveways, and on the street.

It might be an overstatement to say my jaw dropped, but it was ajar when I regained any sort of self-awareness. The sight of all these people frightened me. From where I was, they all looked as dazed as I was. I almost didn’t want to approach them, as if doing so might be an admission some dark, unknown truth pressing against me at that moment. Terror—actual terror—crept through me. Something was going on, and I didn’t know what—andmy car wouldn’t turn on, and I had no power in my home, and my phone was dead.

Then, a thought occurred to me. Maybe they know what’s going on. Maybe they’ve got it figured it out. Surely they’ll have the answer, and, besides, we’re all adults. We’re all grown-ups here. We can help each other out. We’ll be alright.

Among the people around the cul-de-sac, I saw a small cluster of five people, and I recognized three of them. One of them, a guy named Paul, I knew rather well. Then there was a couple, John and Mary—whom I had talked to a few times—and I recognized the other two people- an older man and middle-aged woman who both lived alone -but I didn’t know their names. I began walking over to them. I was still anxious, but I knew there were other people dealing with all this—other people who probably knew what was going on (whatever was going on).

Paul noticed me when I was about twenty yards away and began waving at me. I waved back, then the rest of the group turned around and looked at me. Their faces told me they shared my worries. When I was within twenty feet of them, Paul called out, “Do you know what’s going on?”

I slowed for a moment and almost stopped, then picked the pace up again to reach them. I shook my head as I approached, then stopped about six feet away from their small knot. “No,” I said, “I was hoping you all might know about… Whatever… Whatever seems to be happening.”

We all looked at each other for a few seconds, and, in the silence of that moment, everything felt incredibly real and deceitfully fake at the same time. I broke the silence, trying to get on the same page as everyone. “Is the power out at all of your houses?”

They all nodded.

“What about your cars?”

They nodded again.

“And your phones?”

Reluctantly, almost painfully—almost tragically—they all nodded.

Wheels in my head began to spin. “So, none of you know what’s going on at all?”

They all shook their heads.

“None you can go anywhere unless you go on foot?”

They shook their heads. “Or bike,” Paul added.

“And you can’t get in contact… With anyone?”

Once again, they shook their heads.

Panic began to creep into my nerves again. I felt cold and hot, and confused, and angry and scared, and lost—like I didn’t know where I was anymore. “What… What the fuck?” I said, “Why? Wha… What’s… What the hell?”

Reality seemed to fall out from beneath me. How could these other adults not know what was going on? We were all well-educated grown-ups living in a nice, suburban neighborhood—how could we not know what was going on?”

Paul spoke up, “We were talking about walking into the city, seeing if we could find some cops or something. Do you want to come with us?”

“I have to go to work,” I said.

“How?” asked Paul.

I hadn’t thought about this. I panicked even more, thinking that I might miss work. “I don’t know,” I said.

“So, come with us,” said Paul, gently and cheerfully. I think he could tell I was stressing out. I think they could all tell.

“But, I mean… I have to go to work.”

“I think they’ll understand­,” said John, “especially if this is happening in the rest of the city.”

“Come with us,” Paul spoke with a smile. “We’ll figure this out.”

I thought for a moment, then slowly nodded.

“Yea,” I said, “sure.”

We talked for a little while—talked about where we might go, how we’ll get there, who we might see, what might be going on—and then eventually set out for the city. This was good. We were all adults, working together. We had a plan; we were going somewhere with the purpose of… Of figuring out what was going on and finding… Finding someone, anyone, who might know how to fix any of this… So that… So that I could go to work, then go home, then watch YouTube videos about Yoga, then set the alarm on my phone for 5 AM, and then go to sleep We were good.

What Do We Know (2.0)

By Alexander Greco

April 22, 2019

What is real? What’s just fantasy?

What is fact? What’s just theory?

What is true? What’s just fabrication?

What do we know about the world we live in, the people we live with, and the person we are?

Light comes in through the cornea, and is refracted into your pupil, then through a hard lens, where the light is focused into the retina. Our retinas capture this constant bombardment of trillions of light-waves/particles, and process this light with millions of special nerves called rods and cones. These rods and cones convert light stimuli, which are picked up by the optic nerve, and sent to the brain.

Your brain processes the optic signals with the limbic system first, where our brain scans for threats or rewarding opportunities. The limbic system first “communicates” with the Automatic Nervous System, which governs our fear response, our fight-or-flight instinct, and our sexual attraction instincts. If there’s an immediate threat, such as a snake on the ground, or a potentially rewarding opportunity, such as a person you find attractive, your brain and body begin responding before you know what you’re looking at.

Finally, the processed light-signals are sent to our neo-cortex, where we consciously “see” the light.

Similarly-complex sensory systems detect what we smell, what we hear, what we feel and what we taste, and this is the foundation of how we understand the world around us.

These senses alone are nowhere near what you need to actually understand what’s happening around us. Humans have an incredibly weak sense of smell, we can only detect a narrow range of light waves, our easily-damaged ears can only hear a certain range of sound, and we only see so far, or so close, with limited clarity. The parts of our brain that process these signals can misfire, or misunderstand what it’s looking at (optical illusions).

In addition, our senses alone don’t tell us how a thing works.

We only began to understand gravity in 1687 with Newton, then with Einstein in the 20th century, and we still don’t fully understand how it works.

In fact, we don’t understand how most of the universe works.

27% of the universe is made of Dark Matter, which constitutes 85% of the total mass in the universe. 68% is Dark Energy.[1] That’s 95% of the universe that we don’t understand. All the stars, planets, black holes, comets, asteroids and space debris make up only 5% of the universe.

But let’s go smaller.

The universe is much so much bigger than what we experience normally, we at least know what’s happening on Earth.

Do we?

As a species, we’ve all but mastered mechanical, electrical, optical, thermodynamic and nuclear physics… To a degree.

We now know vast amounts about of biology, evolution and genetics… Relatively speaking.

We have a deep and accurate understanding of psychology… In some ways.

And we’re more informed about the world around us than ever before…

Except we’ve learned enough to see how little we actually know.

We now know enough about quantum mechanics to know that the subatomic world is bizarre and nonsensical, and often violates “laws” of nature, such as the Law of Conservation.[2]

Not only does it violate the Law of Conservation, but quantum mechanics is incompatible with Einstein’s Relativity, and has led to decades of scientists trying to reconcile the two.[3] Decades later, we still haven’t reconciled the two.

Do we at least understand how people work? Why we are the way we are? Why we act the way we act? How we’ve come to be who we are?

Well… Yes and no…

To a certain degree, we understand how humans work. We understand what our bodies are made of, how our muscles, bones, cardiovascular system and so forth work, and how our nervous system works.

We understand that genetics and the environment affect our physical and psychological development.

We understand that genetics, our brain, past experiences, learned behaviors, hormones, psychological states, emotional health, and physical health all play roles in our behaviors and decisions.

We understand how evolution has shaped and changed us over billions of years into modern humans, and how epigenetic adaptations on the individual level.

We have a pretty solid, foundational understanding of how the human body works, but this foundational understanding has shown us the vast amounts of our genetics, biology, physiology, and psychology that we don’t know.

Let’s take something as simple as hair. We have hair follicles in our skin. They grow using nutrients from our body, and they grow according to chemical signals from our nerves.

However, everything is also controlled by our genes. Everything from the follicles, to the structure of each hair, to how fast each hair grows, is coded by genes. And, there can be multiple genes that code for the same thing. You can have multiple genes controlling the color, length and coarseness of your hair, or one gene that codes for several different traits. These genes can be turned on or off, they can perform different functions based on the hormones in your body, and they can also code other genes.

However, genes are only one part of the equation, and things like your diet or how often you exercise can affect individual traits. Everything in the body is interconnected, and it’s highly

We’re only just beginning to know the ins-and-outs of our body.

There are still mysteries to evolution, unanswered questions, and long-debated ideas.

There are still mysteries about genetics, how genes work, and how genes affect our anatomy and psychology.

And there are still mysteries about the brain. We’re still trying to understand all the ins-and-outs of brain function, of how we think and process information, and why we behave the way we do.

Consciousness is a perfect example. We still don’t even know what consciousness is, or if consciousness is real or an illusion. We don’t know why we’re conscious, or what causes consciousness. Yet, consciousness is one of the most important aspects of being a human.

But what about the basic world around us. What do we even know about something as simple as a desk-lamp?

It’s an object that “stands” on our desk. It has a “lightbulb” you can put in or take out. You can “turn it on” to make light come out of the lightbulb.

But how does it stand without falling? How is it constructed? What materials does it made of?

What even is a lightbulb? How does it work? Why does it work the way it works? What is it made of? Is it incandescent? Is it an LED bulb? How does an LED work?

Yes, you can take the time to answer all these questions, even down to what metals and gases are used inside a bulb, and the reasons why they are used, but can you do that for everything? And can you do that for everything all the time?

What is the desk made of? How is it constructed? What materials? Why does it even work?

What about a flash drive? Or headphones? Or your computer?

Why are we able to look out a window and see what’s outside? Why does one flower look prettier than another flower? Why are the walls of a room painted the color they are, and, for that matter, how does paint even work?

Yes, we can stop and explain everything around us, but how often do we do that? How much do we actually know, from one person to the next, about the fundamental objects of daily life? How much do we take for granted when we walk out the door, or even when we wake up in our bed?

Jordan Peterson has a great explanation of this. A car is a thing-that-gets-us-from-one-place-to-the-next, until it stops working. As soon as it stops working, it becomes a chaotic-object-of-anxiety-and-ignorance—a terrifying monster made of valves, wires, pipes, pulleys and gears. But as soon as the car gets fixed, it transforms back into a thing-that-gets-us-from-one-place-to-the-next.

Even more basic than basic objects around us, do we even know what’s going on half the time?

What’s happening on the other side of the four walls around you? What’s happening next door? What’s happening down the street? What’s happening in the next town over? What’s going on in your state, or your country, or the rest of the world?

Unfortunately, we barely even know what’s happening outside our front doors.

When we do see something happening, how much do we actually know about it?

If we see two strangers arguing, do you have any clue what it might be about?

What’s going on in those people’s heads?

What’s going on in anyone’s head, for that matter?

A friend of mine explained something called a “black box” in computer programming. A black box is a piece of code where you can see what information goes in and what information goes out, but you can’t see what happens inside that code. For example, you input X into the black box, and the black box outputs Y, but you don’t know why the black box took in X and put out Y.

Humans are a lot like this.

As I’ve already mentioned, we’re complicated motherfuckers. We barely know why we do the things we do, let alone why other people do the things we do. We barely even know basic information about people and their lives.

What was someone’s upbringing like? How did their parenting, their early experiences, their education, their environment, and so forth affect their personality? What’s their health like? What matters to that person? What does that person go home to each day? What goes on in that person’s head?

Even things like what a person ate on a given day, how much they slept, or the state of their gut bacteria on a given day can alter their personality.

So how much do you know about the person you’re talking to?

How much do you really know, and how much do you make up, or assume?

How often do we make assumptions about people we know? How often do we make assumptions about who they are, what kind of person they are, and the reasons why they behave how they behave?

How often do we project an easy-to-understand, cookie-cutter identity to a person? How often do we then treat them as if they were a cookie-cutter person, instead of treating them as the complex, dynamic human they really are?

The problem is, we can’t do this for everyone.

We can’t take the time to deeply understand each and every individual we come in contact with. We have to make assumptions about them.

At the very best, we have to make educated guesses about a person, but even these guesses can be way off the mark.

Let’s take it a step further.

How do we know how we know things?

How can we be sure we know what we know?

How can we be sure we know anything?

It seems almost stupid to ask (“You just know, you know?”), but it’s really hard to pinpoint how we can be sure of what we know.

Even asking, “What does it mean to ‘know’ something?” is a rabbit hole in and of itself.

We only know what our brain tells us to know. We only know this because our brain tells us we know this. Our brain can be wrong, our brain is forgetful, and our brain is biased. Our brain can be lazy, tired, confused, misguided, and deliberately irrational.

Beyond that, how sure can we even be about the things we “really” know.

There’s a thought experiment about a brain in a jar (which may or may not have originated with HP Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in the Darkness”).

Let’s say you’re a brain in a jar, with all these wires hooked up to your brain. These wires send signals telling you what you see, what your body looks like, what you’re doing, and what emotions you have. As far as you know, you’re a person walking around in the world, doing your thing, but in reality, you’re a brain in a jar.

This sounds sci-fi-ish (it’s one of the ideas behind The Matrix), but there’s legitimate speculation in the scientific community about Simulation Theory. Simulation Theory states that we may be in a reality simulated by a computer-like technology, or some higher form of technology that transcends our knowledge of physics. We could be living in a computer-fabricated universe, dictated by lines of 6th-dimensional computer code.

We are reaching an age where our technology and our computing power will be so powerful that we ourselves might be able to create our own simulated realities. We already have virtual reality goggles, we can already create computer-generated realities and interact with these realities (video games), and people like Elon Musk are already creating technologies that can directly link our brains to computers.

What’s to say a civilization before us, or a civilization “above” us, or an indescribable entity in some multi-dimensional tangent of our own reality, hasn’t already created technology that can simulate a universe?

What’s to say some civilization hasn’t created our universe in one of their computers, and has made a simulation that is so sophisticated it replicated consciousness and physics? (Except it starts to fuck up in black holes)

We kinda don’t know.

Many great minds have pondered, many great minds have searched for answers, and many great minds still haven’t figured it out.

We simply don’t know. We don’t know a lot.

We know some things. We know coffee makes people (not all) hyper. We know some people shouldn’t eat gluten (actually, probably no one should eat it, but it’s whatever). We know monkeys and humans both get weirded out by direct eye contact.

We know the Earth spins, and we basically know why, but we don’t really know why gravity works, and we’re still arguing about how gravity works.

We know humans only live for a short amount of time, and then we die, but we know this is controlled by genes and our biology, and we’re starting to be able to control our genes and our biology, but we know enough about genetic editing to know we maybe shouldn’t fuck with our genes until we really, “really”, really know how our genes work.

We know enough to know we don’t know much.

We know enough to know the world is a crazy god-damn place. We know enough to know humans are crazy motherfuckers. We know enough to know the universe is stranger than fiction.

And beyond that, we don’t really know.

Which can be scary to think about. It can be terrifying to know that our world may not be what it seems. It can keep you up at night, thinking about all the people around you that you barely understand. It can be anxiety provoking to think about what will or won’t happen tomorrow, or in the next week, or in the next year, or what will or won’t happen before you die.

But it’s also kind of fantastic that we don’t know.

How boring would it be if we knew everything?

Einstein isn’t one of the greatest historical figures ever because he knew exactly how the universe worked. Einstein went down in history because he explored the unknown, even to his death. He relished in the things he didn’t know, in the things he couldn’t explain, and devoted his life to uncovering the secrets of the universe.

We don’t like spoilers because we want to find out the end of movie for ourselves.

We don’t like people telling us what to do or how to do it because we want to figure it out on our own.

We don’t like learning about the same thing over and over again, because it doesn’t get us anywhere.

It’s okay not to know things. It’s okay if there’s a little bit of fantasy in our reality. It’s okay if life is more theory than fact. It’s okay if we have to fabricate a few details along the way (so long as we can un-fabricate them at some point).

It’s okay, because what we don’t know is far more interesting than what we do know.

We don’t know where this ride’s gonna take us, and that’s half the fun.


[1] https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-area/what-is-dark-energy

[2] https://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae605.cfm

[3] http://m.nautil.us/issue/29/scaling/will-quantum-mechanics-swallow-relativity

What is the Digital Economy? And Where is it Going?

By Alexander Greco

April 8, 2019

The Digital Economy is a sleeping giant, and it’s still waking up. The internet has only been in its current form for a few decades, but already we’ve seen the rise and fall of massive tech companies, tremendous shifts in society, and a new era of business and economics. The internet has become a place where anyone and everyone can have a voice, can reach out to limitless numbers of people, and can sell a product.

I started blogging a little less than a year ago, and I began realizing the internet is far more complicated than I previously imagined, and there’s far more going on beyond Facebook and Twitter. There is a vast and growing online economy and workforce, which is beginning to impact national and international economies. This is not only affecting the economy, but it’s affecting the foundations of business, the workforce, and the rules of economic engagement. This is, of course, the Digital Economy.

At its surface level, the Digital Economy is a way of making transactions with computers. However, it has grown deeper than that, into a new form of conducting business, with arising online markets, and has intertwined itself with the traditional market.

The Digital Economy can be broken into three branches:[1]

  • Infrastructure:
    • This is the foundation of the online economy, consisting of the hardware and software markets, telecommunication, online networks, and human capitol.
  • E-Business:
    • This involves the processes and operations of a business that is done online, or with computer software.
  • E-Commerce:
    • This is where goods and services are sold online, essentially the core of the Digital Economy.

Because the concepts can be somewhat abstract, I think it would be easier to understand the Digital Economy by the composition of the workforce:

Infrastructure:[2] People who develop, maintain and sell the hardware, software and telecommunication technologies for online business. This breaks into smaller categories:

  • Hardware: Those who develop and sell hardware, ranging from computers to satellite technologies.
  • Software: Those who develop and sell software to be used in both the traditional and digital economy.
  • Telecommunication: Digital infrastructure of communicating around the world (AT&T, Verizon, so forth)

Platforms (an extension of Software Infrastructure): Companies that provide the servers, hosting and platforms for online business. Many of these are the giants of the Digital Economy:

  • Web Browser: Google, Bing, Yahoo, Firefox, DuckDuckGo, and so forth.
  • Website Infrastructure: Companies such as WordPress and Squarespace, which provide the tools and resources for creating a website.
  • Hosting Platforms: These are companies that host websites, podcasts, or music and video, such Bluehost, Lysbin, and YouTube.
  • Social Platforms: These are companies like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Freelancing (typically either in Infrastructure or E-Business): Independent individuals who make a living either by doing gig work, or by setting up full-time contracts with a business online. Freelancing work can range from writing blogs and editing photography, to website development or online advertising consulting.

E-Commerce:[3] This is the bread and butter of the digital economy. This is how anyone and everyone makes money on the internet, or at least where it trickles down (or up) from. E-Commerce ranges from Amazon and Wal-Mart’s online shopping, to small, online businesses (which can range from selling graphic design services to selling cupcake recipes). The E-Commerce workforce would consist of:

  • Business owners (large or small)
  • Employees and/or freelancers involved in the business
  • Shipping and distribution of goods
  • Affiliates, partnerships and sponsorships

Now, I’m not going to delve much deeper into the topic than this, but it’s possible to fractionate the Digital Economy even more, into smaller, sub-economies:[4] [5]

  • Cultural Economy
  • Sharing Economy
  • Collaborative Economy
  • On-Demand Economy
  • Gig Economy
  • Freelance Economy
  • Peer Economy
  • Access Economy
  • Crowd Economy
  • Platform Economy

This isn’t a fully comprehensive list, but it shows the complexity of the internet’s economy, and the broadness of its utility. Throughout the Digital Economy, there are limitless niches, gigs, and positions one could have.

This is where we’ve come today, in a nutshell. A new way of life has emerged with the internet, whether by hybrid digital-physical businesses, or fully digital products and services. The thing is, we’re in the middle of something that’s been developing and changing over the last few decades, and it’s still developing and changing as we speak.

Now, in order to understand where the Digital Economy is going, I think it’s important to answer the following question:

Where did the Digital Economy come from?

(But if you’re not keen on history, you can skip this)

With the advent of computers and eventually the internet, technology and our use of technology began to change rapidly.

Modern, digital computers first began to emerge in the late 30’s and early 40’s.[6] They began as large, bulky machines that used punch-cards and plug-boards, and they mostly remained this way until the advent of microprocessors, such as the 4-bit Intel 4004 CPU, which was created in the early 70’s.[7] By the 1980’s, much more powerful CPU’s were introduced, such as the Motorola 68000 (or m68k) microprocessor.[8] The m68k went on to be used in Apple’s first Macintosh, the Sega Genesis, and the Commodore Amiga.

The first, most basic version of the internet came in 1960’s as ARPANET.[9] A number of university laboratories were given contracts from the US Department of Defense for creating “wide area networking” with computers. One such university was UCLA, which developed ARPANET and successfully used it to send a message to the Stanford Research Institution.

From there, the development of the internet continued in university labs with government money, until the Internet emerged in commercial uses. By the mid 90’s, the Internet was used with unrestricted access by the general public.

Society and computer-technology underwent revolutionary changes in this time, with things like email, instant messaging, forums, online shopping, and social networking.

The world saw AOL, then things like Amazon, eBay and Hotmail emerge in this time. In 1998, Google and PayPal were born. By 2005, we had Wikipedia, Skype, iTunes, Facebook, Podcasts, and Reddit, and then in 2006, Twitter was created. After that, the list continues on. Dropbox, Bing, Spotify, Kickstarter, Patreon, Kickstarter, Snapchat, so on and so forth.

We saw an enormous rise and fall of the internet with the Dot.com Bubble, and then a relatively rapid resurgence in the online markets.

Today, there are people who can pay their bills by sitting in front of a camera for 10 minutes a day. Today, more people listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos than watch Television. Today, according to blogging.org, “409 million people on WordPress view more than 23.6 billion pages each month”[10] which is more than double the 169 million people who read newspapers per month.[11]

Today, three of the most powerful mega-companies of the world are Amazon, Google and Facebook, with companies like Twitter, Netflix, eBay and Spotify (among many other hyper-valuable online companies) close behind.

Today, there are also millions of lesser-known .com’s making money.[12] [13] There are 28 million small businesses in the US, and over 100,000 e-commerce businesses making $12,000 or more a year. Many individuals supplement their income with e-commerce, or support their pre-existing businesses with e-commerce.

The internet has grown into a place where anyone can make a living by their own means, and without a boss. People from freelancers to business owners are living free of upper management and punch-clocks, making their own money, and building their own lives. The internet has sprung into an oddly Libertarian economy, emerging as its own, sovereign economy, while still intertwining with the traditional economy.

And, the strangest thing is, this economy works really well. There’re issues—scams, financial risks, and learning how to use online resources—but there’s massive potential, much of which is already being seen today.

To make money online, you can work as a Freelancer doing a long list of things, such as: [14] [15]

  • Blogging
  • Teaching
  • Graphic Design
  • Photography
  • Interpretations
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Accounting
  • Online Research
  • Editing
  • Social Media Management
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Copywriting
  • Ghost Writing
  • Legal Work
  • Programming
  • Music Production
  • Podcast Production
  • Consulting
  • Website Design
  • Data Analyst
  • Consulting

And this isn’t close to a comprehensive list. This doesn’t even include YouTubers, or people who make money selling e-books, or businesses like Uber and Udemy. Some people make money simply by writing blogs about parenting, or by selling their artwork online. The list of things you can do is almost unfathomable.

Small businesses range from selling bicycles, office supplies, or nutritional supplements, to providing virtual tour guides, providing online psychological help, or selling and shipping DIY gardening kits.

This is where we are at right now. This form of online economy is growing rapidly, and this lifestyle of personal and financial sovereignty is becoming a reality for more and more people.

Now that we have a general sense of where the Digital Economy is right now, where is the Digital Economy going in the future?

The answer comes from Bitcoin. However, it’s probably not in the way that you think.

The answer isn’t cryptocurrency—though cryptocurrency has seen a rise in use over the last several years—the answer is a type of programming called “Block-Chain”, which makes cryptocurrency possible.

Block-Chain[16] [17] is a type of program that links chunks of data together (hence the name block-chain), copies itself across may different computers, so that hundreds of copies of the same piece of code exist across the internet. In order to alter that piece of code, all the computers that have that code must approve and verify the alteration, and that alteration creates a new link in the chain, rather than deleting pre-existing information

This forms the core of a high-level encryption that makes these blocks of data almost impossible to corrupt, and can programmed to perform a variety of functions, which cannot be corrupted. This made Bitcoin possible because each unit of cryptocurrency is backed by an incorruptible, secure unit of data.

However, many are now speculating on how Block-Chain could be used to revolutionize the entire internet.

Block-Chain can be used to perform secure transactions online called Smart Contracts[18], which cannot be tampered with or corrupted, and is completely transparent in its function. These Smart Contracts can be used in:

  • Online business
  • Online banking
  • Online insurance contracts
  • Online legal work
  • Online voting (thus circumventing the ballot box)
  • Online, open-sourced programming
  • And potentially much more

On the more extreme end of speculation, some believe Block-Chain could lead to:

  • Decentralization of the economy
  • Decentralization of the financial and legal sector
  • Decentralization of health care
  • Decentralization of education
  • Possible decentralization of government/military authority

This sounds somewhat radical, yes, and there’s debate on whether or not we’ll be ready for such a dramatic shift, but, just like with the Digital Economy, there’s much potential with this.

It’s difficult to speculate what life will be like with Block-Chain technology, if and when it goes into mainstream use across the internet, but many are hoping it leads to a brighter future. The hope is that this technology will usher in a more democratic, open society, with less authoritarian government-rule, more transparency, and fair, open-access economies.

At the very least, many believe Block-Chain will revolutionize the world economy, and bring us closer to a time where everyday individuals can easily participate in a decentralized global economy, where businesses and institutions become more transparent, and governments have less regulatory power over the economy.

Regardless of what may or may not happen with Block-Chain, the internet is currently a growing nebula of self-made business owners, freelance artists and professionals, and global marketplaces. The Internet and the Digital Economy that it has spawned has become a platform for anyone to carve their own path in life, without any boss but themselves.

If this sounds at all interesting to you, the next logical question would be:

How Can I Be a Part of the Digital Economy?

Here’s the thing. It’s really simple. But it’s also really complicated.

The fundamental concept of making a living online—or partially making a living—is simple. You produce a good or service, advertise in online, then you provide customers with your good or service. The process of developing your online business idea can also be relatively simple:

  • Come up with an idea
    • Blogging about parenthood
    • Selling your own brand of t-shirts
    • Starting an African trucking company (which is a real thing).
  • You come up with a plan to implement that idea
    • Figure out what your primary platform will be (personal blog, crowdfunding, social media, etc.)
    • Figure out how you’ll go about supporting or promoting that platform.
  • Then start making it happen.

It’s the making it happen that’s the difficult part, especially if you’re not super tech-savvy.

The first complication is that there are a variety of ways to join the Digital Economy.

  • Some people make a living with YouTube, but don’t have a website.
  • Some people have a website, but aren’t active on social media.
  • Some people make their money with ads.
  • Some people make their money selling products or services.
  • Some make money as assistants or freelancers.
  • Some make their money exclusively with crowdfunding.

Other people don’t even make money directly from their online presence, but instead use it to promote or advertise their physical, “real-life” business. For example, musicians might promote their music online, or put demos of songs on Soundcloud. A hotel might advertise on Facebook to attract customers. People use crowdfunding websites for charity, for developing prototypes of products, or for supplementing themselves as artists.

In addition, there’s many steps to each and every route you go on.

If you want to make a podcast, you’ll need:

  • Audio equipment you need for it
  • Editing software (and knowledge of how to use it)
  • An RSS feed
  • A site to host your podcast

With websites, you have to worry about:

  • Design
  • SEO
  • HTML, CSS and JavaScript
  • Advertisement
  • Post management
  • Website hosting

If you want to use social media for advertising, there’s a slew of things you have to consider:

  • Demographics
  • Cost to benefit ratios of paying for ads
  • Designing/planning that advertisement
  • The “organic” and “non-organic” ways of building a social media presence
  • And simply learning how to navigate the ins and outs of these different platforms.

And these are just a few sub-aspects of the Digital Economy. If any of this sounds overwhelming, no worries. It is overwhelming, but it’s not impossible.

However, because of the levels of knowledge and experience needed in the Digital Economy, many businesses outsource the work to online agencies or freelancers. Outsourced jobs include:

  • SEO Management
  • Social Media Management
  • Graphic Design
  • Web Design
  • Blogging
  • Audio and Video Editing
  • Beta-Testing
  • And so forth

Outsourcing is a great way to get work done that you might not have the ability to do on your own. While you can make a basic website on your own with Squarespace or WordPress, if you want a more customized website that fits all your needs, you might have to learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Or you can hire someone to make your perfect website for you.

Also, the inverse of this is that being a freelancer—the person being outsourced—can also be a great and satisfying way to make a living. Instead of being the person selling shaving razors online, you can be the person who designs the online storefront for the people selling shaving razors.

However, with anything, you get what you pay for. For $500, you can have a decent website made by a novice web designer, or for $1000, you can have a highly experienced designer make a professional, classy and easy-to-use website. The inverse of this is that as a beginner-freelancer, you might only get one or two $500 contracts a month.

Many freelancers will provide you with quality work, even if you’re on a budget, but some jobs can be quite expensive. For many people, even the cheaper freelancers can be out of their price-range.

So, if you want to enter the Digital Economy, and you don’t want to spend too much money doing it, you’ll probably be doing much of the leg-work on your own.

Don’t let this discourage you.

If you want to start your own business or supplement your income from online markets, there’s one, amazing resource that can help you learn the necessary skills.

The Internet.

The Internet has thousands and thousands of blogs, vlogs, podcasts and webinars on how to do almost anything. If you want to learn how to make your own website, how to market your products online, and how to make a living online, it is 100% possible to learn all these things for $0.

If you want to learn how to sell and market a product online, you can find everything you need online, for free.

Everything I’ve told you is only scratching the surface on these topics—there are thousands of in-depth blogs just on Search Engine Optimization—and virtually anything you need to know on these topics can be found online.

And keep in mind, if this still sounds overwhelming: you don’t have to learn this all in one day. You don’t have to have you’re dream-business up and running overnight.

Start small. Start with something manageable, and learn as you go. Learn more day by day, and grow your website, blog, business, or social media presence over time, even if you’re building it one small brick at a time.

It might take time, it might take some days of frustration, and it might take a few failures before it begins working, but it’s 100% possible to make a living working for yourself and make a living doing something you enjoy.

So, if after hearing all this, you’re still interested in starting your own business, or even using the internet to share some hobby of yours with the world, the next logical question is:

What’s Stopping You?

As one last note, if you think your passions or interests can’t be monetized as an online business, remember that PewDiePie’s estimated net worth is around $20 million, and that’s from making silly YouTube videos. People make money with inspirational videos. People make money talking about Magic The Gathering and DnD. People make money selling vape accessories, DIY kits, and novelty poker sets.

There’s no end to the things you can make a living doing. Perhaps your interests don’t match up one-to-one with a marketable idea, but maybe you can tweak it into a marketable idea. Or maybe you don’t want to market it. Maybe you just want to put things out onto the internet, have fun with it, and see where it takes you. Whatever the case may be, there’s an entire dimension of possibility and opportunity on the internet.


[1] Mesenbourg, T.L. (2001). Measuring the Digital Economy. U.S. Bureau of the Census.

[2] http://www.ques10.com/p/14467/discuss-technology-infrastructure-for-e-business-1/

[3] Wienclaw,Ruth A. (2013) “E-Commerce.” Research Starters: Business.

[4] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/when-is-sharing-not-really-sharing/

[5] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites.berndardmarr/2016/10/21/the-sharing-economy-what-it-is-examples-and-how-big-data-platforms-and-algorithms-fuel/amp/

[6] “A Computer Pioneer Rediscovered, 50 Years On”. The New York Times. April 20, 1994. Archived from the original on November 4, 2016.

[7] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_4004

[8] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_68000_series#cite_ref-1

[9] G. Schneider; J. Evans; K. Pinard (2009). The Internet – Illustrated. Cengage Learning. ISBN 0538750987.

[10] https://blogging.org/blog/how-many-websites-and-blogs-are-on-the-internet/

[11] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/paulfletcher/2016/12/26/good-news-for-newspapers-69-of-u-s-population-still-reading/amp/

[12] https://townsquared.com/ts/resources/small-business-united-states-numbers/

[13] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/mikalbelicove/2013/09/18/how-many-u-s-based-online-retail-stores-are-on-the-internet/amp/

[14] https://nation1099.com/freelance-careers-types-freelance-jobs/

[15] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/abdullahimuhammed/2017/05/06/55-freelance-businesses-you-can-start-for-free-tomorrow-morning/amp/

[16] Drescher, Daniel. Blockchain Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction in 25 Steps. Apress, 2017, Print.

[17] https://en.m.wikipedia.org.wiki/Blockchain

[18] https://blockgeeks.com/guides/smart-contracts/