WDYT 10/19: Attentionr –What’s the Price for Your Attention?

Christian Heise
Oct 31 · 3 min read

How much is your undivided attention worth per minute? Think about it, how many different people, activities, and gadgets are working to capture your attention? There are those things that naturally seek our attention. Our friends, our family, even our pets want some amount of our undivided attention. Our jobs literally pay us for our attention during working hours. Whether or not our families, friends, pets, or jobs get that attentiveness is another question.

But even our families and employers are continually competing with a seemingly limitless collection of other things that want a piece of our attention. With more input channels than ever, our computers, phones, tablets, televisions, radios, headphones, and smart speakers are always screaming at us to get us to pay attention to ideas, products, services, and beliefs.

Often there is a payment of sorts. We trade our attention for the opportunity to be entertained, distracted, or informed. But what if we could just cut through the clutter and be given a chance to be paid for our undivided attention.

Imagine an app that could facilitate that. Even more, consider an app that could create a marketplace for human time and attention. The technology is undoubtedly available. Mobile devices are standardly equipped with front-facing cameras, and software can use this hardware to track eye movements while artificial intelligence can extrapolate the data to measure engagement and attention of users.

Consider an open market of attention-givers and attention-seekers. Would the attention of some people be worth more than others? Indeed, marketers might consider paying higher rates for specific demographics that fit their brand? Would people demand more money to pay attention to things that they were less interested in or even offended by?

Would such a marketplace quickly become the domain of corporations and advertisers, or would it develop a level of personal use? Could an individual pay a specific amount to get someone to listen to an idea or simply listen?

In some ways, this might sound like an image of a dystopian future where our attention is becoming a good which will be tracked and monetized. It might lead us to think of a world where we are always tied to our screens while AI tracks every last aspect of our attention and feeds us only what has been paid for. A world where those who struggle to make ends meet may become servants to attention-seeking devices.

We may not like that idea of the future. However, we should realize that, since the technology is already here, this may quickly become the reality of the near future. And, in some ways, it is already here. The question remains, who will control it?

Consider, as you go through your day, who is trying to pay you for your attention. Those banners that are popping up as you surf the web, pre-roll ads before your next video or song on your playlist, that free offer if you just subscribe to an email list.

People are already attempting to pay us for our attention, perhaps technology will simply bring more clarity to the arrangement. What would be the price for your undivided attention per Minute? What do you think?

Christian Heise

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Christian is a manager, activist, author, lecturer and curator. https://christianhei.se