A good friend of mine is one of those environmentalist types. He saves water, composts his food scraps and would never buy a fuel-guzzling car. He also has an unusual job – he makes money online using methods which, let’s say, are not in line with Google’s best practices. The job involves setting up a few dozen websites and rapidly building thousands of links to them in order to get them ranked in Google.
This enables him to sell a few thousand dollars’ worth of product before Google discovers these sites and de-lists them from the index for violating their guidelines. The process is then repeated.
I’m not judging him. Well, not most of the time, anyway.
He discovered a secret sauce for making money online and is currently making more of it than I am (while living a much more balanced lifestyle). If I knew his methods, I’m not entirely sure that I wouldn’t be seduced into doing what he does, either.
This parallel, however, is interesting to me because while we now recognize the need to protect our physical environment, we’re not there yet when it comes to viewing our online environment through the same lens. That will have to change.
Just as dumping pollution into the atmosphere to make a profit isn’t cool any more, engaging in online activity which then has to be undone by others, will soon become a culturally recognized no-no. Let me explain…
Why Protect The Environment?
Modern-day environmentalism takes as a fundamental premise that the planet is our main, yet fragile, source of life.
The pursuit of our economic goals has an impact on the planet and we consider a limited amount of it to be an acceptable cost. However, we also recognise that if the damage crosses a certain threshold, we will all die.
Which is why we support the idea that industry has to be regulated, irresponsible commercial activity has to be opposed, and so on.
It Hasn’t Always Been This Way
Rewind 50 years and you’ll see a lot less emphasis on preservation, more chimneys spitting smoke into the sky, next to zero recycling and definitely much less talk about water conservation.
Somewhere between then and now we began to believe that the impact we have on our planet isn’t without consequence.
We realised that the world is much smaller than we thought it was, and that reducing the damage we cause is a legitimate cause which furthers the interests of humanity.
Our New Source
Throughout 1990’s the Internet was – let’s face it – a place for the select few to entertain themselves and connect. Since 2000, we have been rapidly moving our lives online. With the rise of social media and content marketing, Internet has emerged as a place where we conduct a sizeable chunk of our lives.
More importantly, however, it’s becoming a tool which we can use to a reimagine and rebuild – for the better – critical aspects of human existence, such as education, transportation, medicine, work, nutrition, etc.
Indeed, as the Internet is evolving from being limited to a device that sits in the corner of our room, to our pocket, to being in front of our eye, to becoming an opaque, omnipresent, intelligent layer through which we interact with our physical world, it becomes difficult to imagine an industry which can’t be revolutionised through a fusion of the Internet with emerging technologies.
In the context of jobs alone, the Internet has the capacity to have a remarkable impact on what we do with our lives and why we do it. It’s opening opportunities for individuals to behave like brands and become highly employable in niche of their choice through a worldwide marketplace.
Within that, a question becomes relevant: If this indeed is true, at what stage does activity which detracts from our experience online become not smart?
I watched Mozilla’s manifesto and was hugely inspired, because I was reminded that the Internet is becoming better not by an accident, but because of people who have the courage to imagine it as something that improves the human condition and dedicate their time to making that dream a reality.
It’s easy to take for granted that, compared with 10 years ago, we see less pop-up banners, less SPAM in our inbox, less viruses and malware. We take it as the norm that if we type “best café in NYC” into Google we’ll get useful reviews instead of 3 pages of advertising masquerading as content.
While I’m not suggesting that a few people, my friend included, are putting us all in danger by potentially “breaking” the Internet, I’m hoping that this post acts as a catalyst for change in how we view this medium and how we spend out time here.
It’s no longer a dumping ground where everyone can come to make a quick buck. It’s a web of communities who, together, can do remarkable things.
Over the next 10 years we’ll experience arguably the most important shift in recent history. Last time a shift like this happened was around 1980’s when the personal computer became useful, small and affordable.
This revolution won’t be based around hardware and electronics, but around software and ultra-connectivity.
This presents us with an immense opportunity.
Before us is once in a lifetime chance to harness new technology and do meaningful work and create something that matters while enjoying the material benefits which successful entrepreneurial activity offers.Imge credit:
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