• Eugene McGarrell

Can the digital currency space provide a solution to the loneliness epidemic?

Updated: Feb 20, 2020

In a world of more than 7 billion people with the technology to connect with anyone anywhere at any time, how is it we are feeling more and more isolated? Michael Collins as he circumnavigated the moon exactly 50 years ago while his fellow astronauts were stepping foot on the lunar surface probably felt less lonely than most of us sitting in our packed trains and buses on the way to work every day.

We can feel lonely in a crowd, and we can feel we are connected sitting on the top of a mountain observing a vow of silence. Physical proximity to people is not a measure of human connection. To feel connected we need to feel we belong.

Loneliness makes us physically and mentally sick. It’s a killer just like cancer kills. We understand the impact of loneliness and we understand how our economic, social and environmental structures and systems are creating more people to feel isolated and lonely.

We need to feel part of a tribe. That’s our instinct. To be isolated from the tribe was a death sentence for humans for many thousands of years. Evolution hasn’t kept up with the pace of technology from the agricultural revolution, through to the industrial revolution and into the current information revolution. We have moved too fast for evolution to keep up.

Many of us join clubs, churches, sports teams and community groups to help fill the void. And of course, the void is filled for the time we are engaged in those activities. Family groups help us to feel we belong, but most of us have grown up in the nuclear family context which is vulnerable to life stage events including children leaving home, divorce and ageing. The extended family exists for a few of us, but in often we are disconnected from the extended family by distance and estrangement.

We have a need to be part of a wider family, to be connected to a wider community. Not just on a Sunday, or for a football match of for a weekly community event organising committee. We need to feel connected all day and every day. We won’t get on with everyone in our tribe, there will be politics among the tribe and of course there will be positioning for leadership roles and perks.

This was always the case. We are human after all.

The concept of a happy hippy commune is for the birds. These communities last for a period for a certain group of people with similar values. These communes are often created to disconnect from the world and can lead to insular thinking and some attract cult status.

So, we need a solution that can be embedded in the context of the real world. A world that is already global and a world that is facing economic decline for a host of reasons. National isolationist policies, trade wars, declining inflation, sovereign currency devaluation, automation of jobs and cost of housing to name a few.

It’s time to create micro-economic communities. As more people have more time on their hands as the nature of work changes there will be more opportunity for people to contribute locally. The failing economy will lead to fewer people in paid work. The skills most people will have acquired will not be relevant. MBAs, Six Sigma black belts and university degrees will be surplus to requirement.

Our time will be better served if we develop skills that will be of service to our neighbours and local community. Childcare, aged care, disability care, gardening, hairdressing, house maintenance, dress making, wine making, micro brewery and IT maintenance are some of the skills we could all trade in locally. Communities aiming to partially get off the macro-economic grid.

Bartering for skills is not a new concept, it’s as old as the hills. The currency to trade those skills has changed over time from exchanging livestock through to the invention of money as a ledger and physical asset. Money is just a system that we have all agreed upon to exchange goods and services. But money in the macro economic context is losing value and the drive to constantly grow the economy every month is going to lead to another financial crisis.

And a financial crisis leads to austerity. Austerity for the poor and not for the rich. And austerity leads to further isolation, sickness and death.

But what if we could create our own local currency? A currency that will hold value. A currency that we could all trust and a currency that won’t be impacted by the economic highs and lows of the pound or dollar?

The cryptocurrency space provides that opportunity. Following the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, Bitcoin was born. A currency with no bank, a currency that doesn’t require us to have a bank account and a currency that has outperformed all major currencies in the world over the last 10 years.

Blockchain technology is a relatively new technology and the potential for its utility is yet to be tested. New digital currencies have emerged, some have failed, and some continue to grow in value. Early lessons are being learned and the potential to create local bartering crypto currencies to support the creation of thriving “partially off the grid” communities is not only possible but is also required.

A thriving local community with its own bartering currency would reconnect people to a local purpose and to each other. The alternative is to continue the trajectory of further isolation leading to an increase in sickness and premature death.

Digital currency as a local bartering mechanism may just help us reconnect with our neighbours.

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