Digital Slaves – The Discipline of Money

I’m reading a book, Who Owns the Future?, by the “father of virtual reality,” Jeron Lanier. His starting point is in the “prelude.”

“…digital networking ought to promote a two-way transaction, in which you benefit, concretely, with real money….  I want digital networking to cause more value from people to be on the books, rather than less. When we make our world more efficient through the use of digital networks, that should make our economy grow, not shrink.”

The first advice given to a blogger is to post regularly, at least two or three times a week. This creates an obligation which will, nine times out of ten, bring no reward to the blogger. It brings no interaction with those who read the blog, and no money. The influence created is passed on to others but not sensed by the blogger. This “Pay it Forward” energy is admirable, productive, and valuable, but it turns the blogger into a slave, laboring for many hours every week with no return. Why do we do it?

I am vacationing in Provence, in France, yet feel obliged to post regularly. Otherwise I will — what?  What will happen to me? What will happen to the world? For the benefit of whom? What is the end game here?

A large number of my blog’s readers are one-timers. A growing slice of my statistical pie is return visitors, but it is still a minority, which means that whenever I post, a random group of world citizens will press a button in response to their search term and come up with my blog. Am I laboring for them? One fabulously successful blogger makes her living on personal appearances and other supplemental work. Should she be above to survive on what she does best?  Mark Twain and lots of other writers had to supplement his earnings with public appearances, but he made plenty of money from his books. He just used it unwisely.

When I first thought of blogging, a very successful blogger offered to sit down with me for a while. She said she had hundreds of thousands of visitors to her blog but it didn’t earn her enough to support herself.

“Why would a person put that much effort into something which they will never earn enough money from?” I asked.

“Your question is a little insulting,” she answered.

It was a bit insulting that I had pointed out to her that she was slave to hundreds of thousands of people and I felt badly, but I still ask that question. The world’s business plan is going nowhere unless we can find a way to reward the enormous effort it takes to create offerings for the digital network. These offerings are used for profit by the server companies (and perhaps the governments which are collecting our data, though I wonder just how useful this information is), but not by the slaves who contribute — The Huffington Post business model.

We aren’t really slaves. A slave is forced to serve others. We bloggers are serving others free and giggling with joy about it. I tell people that I have hundreds of readers every month from all over the world, and my friends earnestly nod their heads and say things like, “I had no idea.  That’s wonderful.” I wonder.

I will leave it to Lanier to change the future. I will continue to use the blog as an outlet for my insatiable desire to write, but I must struggle against letting it dictate how I live my life. I’m in Provence. Smell the lavender. Eat the food. Enjoy my friends. And if I have a thought I would like to share with others, I will, but I am keeping the postings in a file on my computer because some day I might want to write a book, which people would have to pay for.

P.S. I did get an offer to advertise on this blog — from a company which writes assignments, including dissertations, for university students. It is only because of my inventiveness in devising assignments which do not lend themselves to being written by others that this kind of group is anything but my greatest enemy. My nephew, a successful blogger who is poor as a church mouse, suggested a million dollars a month. I wouldn’t even do it for that.

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