I once talked to a former drug addict who was a roadie for a rock-n-roll band. He shared about getting cocaine sent to him from his dealer back in LA when the band was on the road.
“How do you send cocaine through the mail?” I asked.
“Peanut Butter”, he replied.
“Yeah, you get a big jar of it, hollow out the middle, and put the baggies inside.”
Today, it seems, having a drug dealer is old-fashioned. But the USPS is still the transport.
Believe it or not, there’s a website where one can go to purchase all the illicit narcotics they like. Sellers post their product with pictures and descriptions. It’s slightly mind-blowing that something so brazenly illegal and considered by most to be flat out wrong would exist. It’s almost like walking by a store on main street and seeing not a doggy in the window, but bags of cocaine, bricks of hashish, and bottles of ecstasy.
In a polarizing combination of openness and secrecy, Silk Road exists in a space that only could be established in cyber space. Unlike the store front, and unlike Amazon or Target.com, you don’t simply type in silkroad.com and “wallah”. This online marketplace is located in something called the Deep Web. I don’t know a lot about it, but I do know that you can’t access the site with your typical Internet browser. You have to use a special non-tracking browser called Tor.
Others have gone there, though, and have pics to prove it. Can you imagine seeing this on your monitor?
Besides the browser, another anonymity enabler is that the currency used to make transactions is Bitcoin, evident from the “B dollar sign” (and probably another article I’ll write due to the potential monster significance an electronic currency can have.) Perhaps most interesting (or tragic, shocking, or what have you) of all, is that the drugs are then sent to buyers via the infrastructure the federal government has set up: the postal service. Your friendly, light-blue-wearing mail deliverer will hand you a package of your mail order heroin with a smile.
Silk Road is said to be beyond the hacking/tracking capability of the government. And most are unaware of it because most people don’t get high. For both these reasons, I’m writing about it. If this site continues and others like it start up, it demonstrates (indeed, it already has demonstrated) another example of a chink in the governing apparatus’s ability to control.
Though nefarious to many, Silk Road might be a sign of the times–better times, I argue–where technology supersedes and rocks the boat of the social organizational system we have in place today. This direction will require us to deal with problems (drug abuse, in this scenario) not through prohibition or any other “good vs evil”, sweeping legal attempts, but in a more nuanced manner that allows people more freedom to be adults and more care when they make mistakes.