Brilliant Human Achievement Impolitic Life

A crisis of imagination

<![CDATA[The Looming Attention Crisis:

Most of us have day jobs. Many of us have families. So we have a limited amount of attention left. And I suspect we are consuming most of it with what we’ve got on our plates today.

So where does the attention come for the next wave of blogs and web services? From the old ones, I guess. In my case, its not going to come out of my family’s attention allocation or my firm’s.

So attention is a zero sum game and if we are creating (at an exponential rate?) more uses of attention, then we are facing a looming attention crisis.

Fred Wilson has arrived at that wall where the transition between gathering and using attention as a fungible asset that can be converted into economic value in various ways. Yes, we’re running short on attention, because, for now, our attention is rendered largely valueless by the gross metrics, physicality and temporality of the economy. Once we begin to understand that by mining attention we approach forms of knowledge that are currently viewed as intrinsic aspects of the economy rather than as extrinsic value that redounds to its creators, then the zero-sum that punctuates our attempts to fit all the information we view into our already busy lives will evaporate. It will happen slowly, but it will happen.
Who in 1400 C.E. would have imagined there would be a class of people who traded symbolic value representing remote physical and economic assets? Likewise, today we look at how much knowledge is “lost” in the rapid shifting of our attention and cannot imagine how it will be made valuable.
UPDATE: The Head Lemur blames copyright, which I am not so worried about. The problem, I think, is how you create an economy of small information production, because producers of knowledge still need to eat. Alan’s right that copyright has over-reached through extension of the term of copyright to absurd lengths, but the problem is in the breach between the creation of content and the copyright term, where livings will be made in the future.

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2 replies on “A crisis of imagination”

> Who in 1400 C.E. would have imagined there would be a class of people who traded symbolic value representing remote physical and economic assets?
Anybody in any Hanseatic or North Italian city (or probably their Indian Ocean & South China Sea counterparts) who ever handled a Bill Of Trade? (I think that’s the right term – it’s long time since I read Braudel) Plus ca change.

Precisely why I chose 1400 as a date: Only a very, very few people would have been familiar with the kind of concept attention represents today….. The Hanseatic League had been around for a couple hundred years then, but it wasn’t formalized until the 1350s and, even then, dealt primarily in physical goods that could and would be delivered if a demand were presented. The symbolic analyst today doesn’t expect to ever lay hands on a shipment of timber.