Yesterday- partly on my own, and ultimately with a little shove in the right direction, by a friend- I found the Underground Internet! -Also known as the Deep Web or the Dark Net.
For the unaware- this is a part- a huge part- of the internet that is actually built and maintained to be "off the grid". It is unreachable by normal internet surfing or searches. The links- if you can even find one, will break and redirect you to error codes every time, if you are not running the proper software and a special web browser that aggressively protects you privacy, info, and property while simultaneously opens the doors that slam in the face of other internet browsers.
Everywhere one enters in the Deep Web requires usernames, passwords, pin codes, captchas, and other info that completely overwhelmed my memory last night. Every site indicated that loss of any of this vital self-identifying info that I had given them would be potentially catastrophic to my accounts. Finally, I decided to create a word document with all my sensitive Dark Net secret codes. I felt like a cartoon Super Villain... with mild amnesia concerns!
Again- for the benefit of those who don't know- the two big tourist attractions in this part of the internet are the Silk Road Marketplace- known to frustrated and largely impotent law enforcement agencies as the “Internet Black Market”. Here you can engage in free and open trade with other Dark Net denizens for all manner of goods and services- everything is available for a price- from hard drugs in very large quantities, big, dangerous weapons, and the renting (or occasionally buying) of human beings and their sundry "talents".
I did not personally encounter it- but I understand that one can also locate the criminal element for hire- (if maybe you need help solving a problem...) and child pornography for sale and enthusiastic one on one file swapping. It's all part of Silk Road's local "color".
Now, the second tourist attraction which I alluded to, is centered around the financial structure of the Veiled Network.- Yes, indeed- this cyber-land -located hiding front and center on the "grid"- from the internet mapmakers- have their very own entirely electronic currency called the BitCoin.
If you want to buy anything at the Market, you will need to get an account- but, no worries, because they generally collect little or no personal info when you create a BitCoin account! Essentially, you launder money casually into this account that does not precisely exist in any traditional way. Once your damp money is deposited, it is no longer part of the US economy. Poof!
The trade rate between BitCoin and US dollars or any other national money system, is variable- like any currency conversion. And yes, for those who are wondering- there is indeed a stock exchange located in Silk Road. Currently, the rate of exchange is approximately 97 US dollars per BitCoin. Yep- the currency exchange desk is a rough financial/rectal violation to accept.
Once your BitCoins are converted into your account you can shop. But it isn't a simple checkout system like we are accustomed to... it is somewhere between checking out at Ebay with Paypal and the multiple websites and passwords etc… and negotiating a hostage exchange with a drug addict with a mental deficiency and a giant barking dog in the background! It's loud, it’s messy, it’s over explained, over complicated, over negotiated, and ultimately it is refereed by a third party company called an Escrow.
They help you create a contract with your trading partner that covers what is being sold and for how much as well as what is expected of both buyer and seller throughout the sale and shipping process. Everything is planned- including who must pay the reshipment cost if your items get confiscated in customs. Ideally, once the deal is struck, the item is rush shipped, the buyer inspects the item to their satisfaction and finally gives the word to Escrow to release the funds to the seller. Last, the buyer leaves feedback for their seller- being honest about their experience.
Again, back to the Ebay-like experience... The only real difference is instead of buying a chipped vase that reminded you of your dead aunt at a weak moment last week… instead you bought a huge amount of... Heroin! Or maybe an AK-47... Who will cast the first stone, folks? Which is truly the stupider and more hollow purchase?
So... that is a summary of what I learned and experienced last night. From what I understand, the Deep Web is thought to be as much as three times the size of the internet that most people see exclusively. Can you even begin to imagine the secrets that are out there- just out of reach... until one day you find the exact right old, rusty key in the attic....
So- yeah. I got myself about 85% of the journey alone. But in the end, my friend "B" pointed me in the right direction, down the yellow brick road, toward Oz. Which I guess is what I will now do for others that seek free trade without societal infringement or judgment. For those willing to fight aggressively for the protection of their private info, defense of their intellectual property and privately owned art & media. Not to mention, defending their physical property from collateral damage caused by viruses, spyware, and flat out file theft.
But… I want the right to do what I feel is morally acceptable (or not)- along with all the other Silk Road walkers. It is in the... well- it's almost like a Constitution document located at the Market. It encourages shoppers to think for themselves, pursue their bliss- whatever it might be (or cost). It also charges the Deep Net explorers to self-govern the community from frauds, scammers, thieves and other unsavory's that could threaten the fragile existence of this world created by rebellion, and refusal to color inside the lines- and powered by pure, unadulterated decadence and pleasure seeking.
Since there are no prisons in the Dark Net that I am aware of- I'm honestly not sure what we are collectively being instructed to do with our percentage of losers that are just waiting to shit in the apple pie for an unsuspecting rube. Will we learn how to launch cyber-attacks upon their hardware, network and software that is allowing them to access the internet at all? This seems most logical on the surface... but given the state of the physical earth world- and the primary internet as well- wouldn't that be like throwing a human out of a space shuttle, naked onto the Moon with no oxygen mask and saying- welcome to your new home! Figure it out!
It just seems a bit extreme as well as somewhat cruel and unusual I suppose – particularly for someone as tech, 'net, and 'puter savy as anyone who can even get to the Silk Road world- even if they are a dishonest creep. So, then… do we publically humiliate and shun them in the open square of the Marketplace? Hmm, entertaining, but probably not constructive to the society. Do we turn them in to law enforcement?- Definitely no. That stands in opposition to everything that all of us underground, anarchist types fight for every day and in every dimension.
Even in a world that exists in a place uncharted and ungoverned- not physical, not cyber-untaxed, untouched and unregulated!- Imperfect for sure! But also defined subtly by its dismal reflection of the human condition. After all- this market of the carnal desires wouldn't exist if there was not a receptive audience. At our most un-civilized lies the truth of the human animal. We want sex, drugs, and varying real world luxuries that we don't even truly enjoy along with the ability to cause the head to blow off of anyone who might impede us in our ever elusive search for “contentment”.
And yeah- sometimes that might create a situation... we might have to learn, as people to judge people on different standards than we ever have before! Perhaps it is just not about anyone (or even everyone's) set of religious or moral beliefs. Maybe what we think of another human’s desires, or actions is really... un-fucking-important. It’s possible that in this Wild West, there is no room for law-enforcing cowboys. Because here- we are all runaways, castoffs, and rejects of society- every one of us. Maybe for the first time in history- the fundamental principles on which our “clubhouse” is founded leave no room for individual opinions, judgments, and indictments of others!
Wow. Is this social Marxism in action? I don’t know. It could just time to grow up and start minding our own work! Honor among thieves and the underground society being charged with its own policing aside- perhaps we all need to keep our yaps shut and let life play out as it will for others and ourselves. The dishonest in business will quickly have poor feedback and no more customers. Those that deal in the people meat trade- just because it makes us squeamish to look at our own mirror reflections if we think about the plight of whores, strippers, sex slaves or others that are being consumed by the Sex-Trade-Machine. But that does not mean there is any rightful cause for any of us to stick our noses into it!
And the drug dealers and gun salesmen- they are just meeting a demand. How about if we start looking at why everyone we know is battling chemical addictions and other mental maladies? And why do we not feel safe in our own bedroom without knowing there in a gun within reach? Isn't that really "our" problem, not that of the vendors?
And finally- the child porn. Sigh. Well- it could be worse. Would you rather have Chester the Molester prowling your neighborhood? Truly, people- if internet porn- no matter what the topic, is keeping him at home alone- is that actually bad??? And frankly- if he is deeply enough entrenched either in the hacker circles or if he found his way onto Silk Road just by following the trail of naked little kid pictures to the deepest, darkest pit he could find in cyberspace... I can pretty much promise that this is not the guy who could be a threat to anyone.
So- that’s it! This has been a presentation of my essay “Silk Road Travels”. Hope you learned a couple things and perhaps caused you to reconsider some of your “near and dears”. I will perhaps write more after I do more exploring. But probably not. If you can find it yourself- you don’t need me as a tour guide. And if you can’t seem to follow the bread crumb trail no matter how hard you try… well… bummer for you if this has been a longstanding goal or interest of yours. But look at it this way- what you do not bear witness to- the things that you don’t have to just “accept” – simply because you have no choice but to see things you wish you had not... Those things that you do not know and hold no responsibility for, you can also never be blamed for- not by anyone. Especially not by yourself.