The Blockchain Gig Economy: Finding A Constant Cash Stream

Blockchain, Innovation, Opinion | February 13, 2019 By:
It’s a bit late to ring the bell that says, “the gig economy is here to stay.” If you haven’t heard it yet, you might need to get your ears checked.

According to data from the U.S labor department, about 35% of the U.S workforce is employed on a contract basis. This covers your local plumber, seasoned freelancers, and college students spending their spare weekend hours delivering McDonalds for Uber – it’s a broad category.

The reasons why millennials (and soon Gen-Z) prefer it this way are equally broad, and often discussed. In short,

  • The gig economy provides superior flexibility in terms of work/life balance, load and hours worked
  • The gig economy tends to support remote job opportunities, giving its participants superior mobility
  • The gig economy offers freedom to work in fields that were once less accessible such as content writing, graphic design and freelance coding
  • The gig economy is easily entered and easily left, giving its workers more control over where they work and on what terms

There are a lot of great things about the gig economy – I could write a whole article about them. But I’m not going to waste words where others have already spent them. Instead, I’m going to acknowledge some of the critics who’d like to tear it down.

Is Gig-Work Sustainable?

The strengths of the gig economy have also proven to be its greatest weaknesses. Take flexibility, for instance: although it’s possible to make a living through gigs, the majority of workers don’t. They use gigs to supplement low income “traditional” jobs, leading many to call it exploitative.

Or, take the fact that 66% of millennials haven’t saved for retirement yet. Even those who manage to score consistent work that pays the bills are often living from paycheck to paycheck.

If concern for our friends and neighbors isn’t enough, then we ought to be worried about this for a very simple reason: if they’re not happy, employers will eventually feel the burn. It’s a well-established fact that poor quality of life leads to lower productivity, and poor productivity leads to poor sales.

So does this mean – as some have suggested – that the gig economy is a social scourge that needs to be squelched? No.

A Simpler Way to Look at Things

Sigmund Freud famously said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” That is to say, it’s (sometimes but not always) a fallacy to look for complexity when simple explanations prove boring.

When it comes to the gig economy, a lot of explanations have been offered, all relegating millennials to the hapless victims of circumstance. We hear it’s because of the 2009 depression – but we had a depression a century ago, leading to a resurgence in traditional 9-5s when it was over.

We hear it’s because millennials have no other options – there just aren’t enough jobs to go around, and the ones that exist don’t pay well. But the job market is doing better than ever. The tech industry is booming, and millennials aren’t biting.

So let’s try out the boring explanation: what if millennials are joining the gig economy because they just like it better, warts and all?

We know millennials don’t care for traditional jobs. We know they prefer to be their own boss. And furthermore, we know that they love technology – who doesn’t? So maybe it’s no coincidence that the gig economy exploded into popularity right around the time smartphones did.

Here’s my belief: flexible, contract-based work is just a natural consequence of a thriving “self-serve” digital ecosystem. And if millennials prefer it that way, good for them! All we have to do is make it better so their futures are secure.

Finding a Stable Cash Flow

Economists like to define things differently than regular people do. Where they see “low-skilled, contract-based labor,” they miss the basic, human charm behind the gig economy – what makes it an attractive option even for boomers.

Here it is in plain English: the gig economy turns everyday tasks into sources of revenue. You’re going to drive anyways, right? Might as well work for Uber. You’re going to the grocery store anyways, right? Might as well pick up some commission along the way.

Now the idea of making money on their downtime doesn’t appeal to everyone. But for those to whom it does, finding a stable cash flow means monetizing as many everyday activities as possible.

Some in the gig economy will always be content to work a traditional job supplemented with gig money. Others will wear different hats depending on the time of day (transcriptionist in the morning, TaskRabbit in the afternoon, Uber at night).

This need for redundancy isn’t a “bug” or a “downside” of the gig economy; it’s a feature. It’s how the system is supposed to work, because – remember – the point is to make money from everyday tasks, and nobody does the same task all day long.

Monetizing Intellectual Property

There are some in the gig economy who aren’t associated with it as often as others. In fact, they predate the recent popularity of the term, because they have been around almost as long as the Internet.

The list includes:

  • YouTubers
  • Bloggers
  • Self-published Amazon authors
  • Bandcamp artists
  • Patreon users
  • Livestreamers
  • Social media influencers

More recently, it includes authors on experimental blockchain-based communities like steemit, which rewards users with cryptocurrency based on the amount of attention they generate.

What do all these examples share in common? They translate every day creativity into cold, hard cash – sometimes a lot of it, and sometimes just a little. But we cannot underestimate the cumulative economic impact of fanfiction authors earning $100.00 a month from patrons for weekly updates to a series of stories.

The gig economy – when understood through the eyes of a normal person and not an economist – can encompass and embrace almost anything that regular people do on a daily basis, from strumming new chords on a guitar to streaming a few hours of Fortnite.

The Future of Gigs

I predict that within the next decade, we’ll see an explosion in the number of every day activities that can be monetized. Blockchain ledgers have revolutionized the way that discrete actions can be tracked and tied to value (crypto), creating a potential economy for pure creativity.

At LOCI, we’ve worked hard to make ideas a viable source of revenue for 21st century inventors. Creators can use our platform to develop random shower thoughts and bits of inspiration into real products they can sell, license, or patent.

Because at the end of the day, inventors aren’t just nerds churning out notebooks full of prior art and sketches – everyone can invent, just like everyone can make music. The only difference is that some of us reap rewards for it, and some of us can’t.

Here’s the beauty of the gig economy if my vision of the future is correct: soon, all of us will be able to. And that’s exactly how things should be.

John Wise is the CEO of LOCI, which allows patent and intellectual property searches using blockchain. But before that, he worked as a mechanic, crew chief, data engineer, and team manager for some of the top teams in American racing.
His premise? If you can innovate, you can make money. There are new tools that bridge the gap between investors and creators and level the playing field when it comes to the patent process. All you need is a great idea and an Internet connection to secure a financially-stable future.