Dec 222012

Esther Dyson briefly discusses the Attention Economy here

Here’s my comment:

Esther, I’m a bit surprised you didn’t credit me with the Attention Economy idea.  Twenty years ago, you asked me to and I did write most of an issue of your “Release 1.0” on this topic. You had learned about it from my ill-distributed “Letter on Post-Industrial Issues.” I had already been referring to the Attention Economy since the mid-80’s, when the thought first occurred to me. (Some people credit Herbert Simon, but he only noted that individuals have a limited amount of attention to pay, not that receiving attention is highly desirable.)

Back in ’92, you questioned whether attention is fungible, a concept new to me at the time. As a result you got me to refer to the Attention Society, rather than theAttention Economy in what I wrote for  your letter. You apparently still question that. Of course, you are quite right in the sense that a certain amount of attention cannot reliably be bought for any specific amount of money, and that getting, say, your attention may be harder than that of, say,  a random next-door neighbor. But you seem to me to imply that attention’s partial lack of fungibility means that somehow it can’t serve as the basis of a full economy, which I dispute. Attention can be: handed on — as you did to me when you published my article; saved —in attention payers’ memories;  used to obtain anything from a bite to eat to whatever thing or service one might want — if one only has enough of it (i.e., attention from others); and be intensely competed for.