June 7th, 2012

Human Attention is a Finite Resource (Eyeo 2012)

I have been thinking about a succinct way to express this thought for a few weeks — that time and attention are valuable in a way that is just as measurable as real estate or oil or currency.

Saw Jonathan Harris talk at the Eyeo Festival this afternoon and he said it perhaps most eloquently: “human attention is a finite resource.” While it’s fairly obvious, I wonder why so many people have trouble applying this supposed truism.

For example, the fact that Facebook’s stock is imploding indicates to me that we dont value attention in the same way that we value commodities, when in fact they are quite similar – both are very limited and in extremely high demand.

The real problem here is pricing. The inability to determine the value of something does not mean the thing itself has no value. That is a dangerous fallacy. It simply means that there is no comprehensive system in place. Too many people understand that oil is valuable, and as a result a system developed to track the value.

How long will it be before such a system is developed around human attention? Will it be something in the future that we can buy, sell, trade and collect?

I wonder how close we are to such a reality.

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