Human Attention

"Human attention is the most valuable resource on earth" - why not knowledge, or energy, or rare materials?

Knowledge results from attention, not vice versa. We can imbed knowledge in books and bits, in automated machines, in companies and artifacts and artworks. But knowledge is useless without humans to transform it, and that requires attention. A phonebook cannot morph into a telephone call without somebody paying attention - even a list of phone numbers on a computer can't turn into robot calls without someone setting up the list and computers and robots, and thinking about what they are supposed to accomplish. We have more knowledge in libraries, websites, disk drives, and file cabinets than ever before, but it is frozen until liberated by the active involvement of human minds.

With sufficient design and engineering attention, desired end goals can be accomplished with arbitrarily small energy and material inputs. A "smart" phone of 2008 looks pretty dumb compared to a 2014 phone, which is smaller and uses less energy and materials. The input reduction will continue - someday that phone will be a few microscopic bits of matter in the brain, talking to a wisp of interconnect material outside the scalp.

Advertisers pay for attention; consultants sell it. Attention varies in quality, knowledge helps, but knowledge without focus, intent, and intensity has lower economic value. Intellectuals bemoan the "stupidity" of the powerful - but still clamor for the goods and services those powerful people make possible. Sam Walton was no scholar, but his focused attention was more valued by the world than a thousand Marilyn vos Savants.

Want a reputation as a scholar? Read a lot of books. Want wisdom? Pay attention while you read, and pay attention to the people and things those books claim to describe. If you pay enough attention, people will pay attention to you.

HumanAttention (last edited 2014-08-15 23:18:36 by KeithLofstrom)