Virtual Homelessness and Virtual Living Come of Age

I was reading an article on BBC about Kelly Sutton of CultofLess.com and it got me to thinking about the potential for a new sub-culture in the US and rest of the world. Basically it is a movement (if you can call it that yet) of mainly 20-somethings relinquishing the vast majority of their posessions and living with as little as possible as long as they have their laptops and other digital goodies. Depending on friends and family to provide a place to sleep in some instances. This may yet be another symptom of steps toward what many call Technological Singularity in the sense that a new subset of people following this digital living and minimalism of possessions are becoming more popular. Now there are Hacker Spaces, imagine a day soon where there will be “Hacker Flop Houses” or “Hacker Hostels”. Even work could be transformed for this subset of people in terms of things already occurring. With the ability to telecommute or work on Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) that services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Crowd Flower, or others could allow people to live an almost digital hobo existence bedding down in hacker flop houses and moving on to another place whenever they choose. With no physical address these people could also become hired digital guns if they chose to follow a less reputable path. Using public Internet access to do their deeds and be gone to another town by the time anyone notices. Almost sounds like something from a William Gibson book but the groundwork for this sort of thing is already in place in many instances. Roving gangs of black hats working to do the deeds of the highest bidder. Sounds pretty scary to me. Although that is just an example of what might happen. Most people as in the original article I read are honest working people who are following a route less taken, which I can understand and support. It would also be a very effective way to save money if you lack the overhead of a place to live.

Update 09212010 – Found an interesting write up on what is now being referred to as Technomads on BoingBoing.

4 comments

  1. A less dystopian vision is Homesteading 2.0 = Technology + Resilient Communities + Agriculture. It should be possible with modern technology to live a Good Life with less effort than early homesteaders. We may not need to turn into roving bands of digital assassins :)

  2. @todd: Yes agreed. Just happened that my mind was in a ‘Gibsonesque’ mood the day I wrote this. I foresee potential for a lot of interesting things in the future in terms of social change brought on by technology. Even anti-technology communities brought on by privacy and Orwellian concerns which I have read about in many dystopia books.

  3. My guess would be that for every “hacker hobo” there would be a large number of digital slackers living a similar lifestyle (spending more on electronics and bandwidth than food, shelter and transportation) but working in non-skilled service industries.

    If you’ve got hacking skillz it would be easy to slide down the slippery slope to a real job; without those skillz the easiest path would leave you marginally employed in food service indefinitely, or at least until you have a baby or a bike accident and need health insurance.

  4. I don’t think this is a matter of choice for many. Writing in 2011 — after the Occupy Wall Street and over 1,000 similar movements — its clear that something is massively wrong with developed nations like UK and USA.

    Others are subsidized by mom and pop, while trying to look independent. That’s behind the 20-year trend of dive bars and pre-ripped designer jeans. Keeping it real has always meant keeping it poor. That protestant-catholic work ethic creeps into non-religious modern consciousness — even though no one wants to actually work in a shit job. But look like they do.

    Whether truly poor or acting poor, the reason for it is no good jobs for youngsters. None to suit the pretty good education that sprung up in the 1960s. That education served the parents of these 20-year olds well, but society failed the latter generation.

    But, let’s not aggrandize schemes like ‘Human Intelligence Tasks’ because of their cool name. That’s just plain logocentrism, paying heed to the symbol rather than the real thing. In reality, HIT offers ‘mind less’ jobs, like counting the number of blue pins on a heavily populated Google map. Tasks that can’t yet be automated because they’re not in text, or the API is missing, or it costs too much to screen-scrape.

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