I don’t think this hashtag exists as yet.  If it does, it seems to have been suppressed.

I’m not surprised.

After around twelve years of doing stuff for free, and I’m sure that timeframe matches the timeframe of many others of us out there who – accidentally or not – ended up relative pioneers of the precursors of today’s social networks, I’ve definitely got #DoingStuffForFreeFatigue.

Cristian thinks otherwise; but then he’s a better man than I am.  And I mean that as honestly as one could.  Quite fairly and quite bravely, he says this today:

What people never seem to understand is that success isn’t about never failing. It’s about not quitting. It’s about keeping at it, regardless of the consequences.

I don’t argue with his ideal.  I do argue with others’ underlying strategies.  This “doing stuff for free” was, at one time for me, a real moral argument of great weight.  I still agree with the argument: we all stand on the shoulders of giants; even giants stand on the shoulders of giants.  Originality is a concept we should discuss and question far more.  That we don’t, or that public discourse coalesces into two extremes of total liberty versus total control over ideas and their development (I’m thinking of long-drawn-out copyright and patent warfare here), only indicates that common sense in this matter no longer exists.

Just brute force.

Just tribal conflict.

So over the years I’ve posted thousands of articles – some good, some frankly brill, some clearly highly self-indulgent and quite forgettable – with little or zero remuneration.  Others, meanwhile, on the back of those ideas and posts, I presume have done stuff for their benefit.  And I never begrudged them this.  Because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.  My ideas were never mine to exclude with; they were always ours to share.

Only, the giants now – and this is where I would say Cristian’s arguments (and my former own) begin to collapse – no longer stand on the shoulders of giants; they also trample on the thought processes of both the aforementioned mighty and the small.

From Disney’s appropriation of public-domain fairy tales, beautifully crafted and forged, to the wider film industry’s refusal to contribute to a 20th century commons that might have replaced the 19th century literature it spent so much of its time drawing grand inspiration out of, we have a lopsided set of behaviours firmly asserting their bending-out-of-shape natures.

On the one utterly naive side, there were all us web-loggers, online diarists, tweeters, Facebookers, Web 2.0 enthusiasts, practically professional commenters below the fold, survey completers, video amateurs and – then – last but definitely not least all those terribly enjoyable conspiracy theorists … and, meanwhile, on the other perfectly knowing side (by now, anyhow!), the giants of tech who really had come about through the efforts of – ultimately – billions of disparately ordinary predecessors like ourselves; ordinary, it is true, but with – even so – quite extraordinary and multiple occurrences.

In truth, what we became was the second Industrial Revolution.  Instead of mining coal, iron ore, slate and diamonds, the Facebooks and Googles and Twitters et al mined what they managed to convert into our freely available and plentiful thoughts, using relatively simple and cleverly repeated programming strategies along the insatiable way.

The grand achievement of the Industrial Revolution of the 21st century has been to turn human beings – in an ever-growing and significant minority – into natural resources to be exploited and maximised for the benefit of those who still conserve some dignified relationship with work.

As the minority slowly becomes a majority, we shall see whether this will remain a sustainable state of affairs.  Whilst people like myself have laboured under the foolish and confused state of mind that no one paid us for what we did because what we did wasn’t worth paying for, people, institutions, finally very large concentrations of wealth, which have known all along far better than we ever did, have taken all those ideas, have created firehoses and algorithmic streams whose intelligence – whilst no longer the work of any individual author, and thus becoming free of all copyright, payment and intellectual recognition – nevertheless still requires the billions of authors to continue contributing without financial compensation.

It’s amazing how the our virtual 21st century ecosystem has become, essentially, a capitalism which exploits a millionfold more than Victorian times ever did.  And yet few people who are exploited seem to see it as exploitation.  They say: “Social networks?  Hey!  That’s fun.”  And if you say to them: “You know, whilst you’re not making ends meet, someone in Silicon Valley’s turning a helluva business on what you do when you look at your smartphone!”

No.  Don’t get me wrong.  Physical comfort, life expectations, freedom from fear of terrible illness … these and many more things are far better in the 21st century.

But the very fact that the natural resources being mined by large 21st century corporations are no longer coal, iron ore or diamonds … that – instead – it is the time which you and I, we flesh-and-blood creatures who supposedly have a God-given right to people, inhabit and enjoy this gorgeous planet … time we decide to – apparently! – quite voluntarily secede … and even though, as we persist in ignoring its true value, we still cannot properly get to the end of the month …

So much resource.

So much wealth.

So much poverty.

So what does this really sound like again?

Isn’t this all a case of colonialism squared?  Only, instead of geographic and racial, it’s become virtual and mental.

But the ethnocentricity, the self-centred commerce, the egotistical carelessness … even the cruelty that comes out of thoughtless acts which start out in one type of place – and end up condemning real lives to heartless despair in quite another …

These are the real implications of this very 21st century destruction of all of the natural resources alluded to.

Not the ones we see burn in our TV documentaries and news reports.

Rather, the ones we see die in family units before our eyes.

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