10 January 2010

The false question of attention economics

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A few posts have emerged recently that recapitulate the well-worn arguments of attention scarcity and information overload in the real-time social web, so Stowe Boyd wrote a “short and sweet counter argument from a cognitive science/anthropology angle”.

“The framing of the argument includes the unspoken premise that once upon a time in some hypothetical past attention wasn’t scarce, we didn’t suffer from too much information, and we had all the time in the world to reason about the world, our place in it, and therefore to make wise and grounded decisions.

But my reading of human history suggests the opposite. In the pre-industrial world, business people and governments still suffered from incomplete information, and the pace of life always seemed faster than what had gone on in earlier times. […]

There is no golden past that we have fallen from, and it is unlikely that we are going to hit finite human limits that will stop us from a larger and deeper understanding of the world in the decades ahead, because we are constantly extending culture to help reformulate how we perceive the world and our place in it.”

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