Attention

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Full Title or Meme

For the commercial internet, the most valuable commodity is acquiring the Attention of the user's that are likely to spend money on whatever it might be that the web site is selling.

Context

  • Attention is your most valuable resource. Nietzsche describes a person who has turned out was thus:
    What does not kill him makes him stronger. Instinctively, he collects from everything he sees, hears, lives through, his sum: he is a principle of selection, he discards much. He is always in his own company, whether he associates with books, human beings, or landscapes: he honors by choosing, by admitting, by trusting
  • Privacy is the right to be let alone as defined in the late 19th century. [1]
  • As long ago as the mid-1980s Michael Goldhaber's epiphany was this: One of the most finite resources in the world is human attention. To describe its scarcity, he latched onto what was then an obscure term, coined by a psychologist, Herbert A. Simon: 'the attention economy.'"[2]
  • Most advertisers or influencers talk about trying to maximize the "eyeballs" that are focused on their offerings, but since the rise of podcasts it is better to focus on the user's Attention which is what will drive their actions.
  • The same can even be said about selling ideas to venture capitalists. First is the name of the idea, then the elevator pitch and then the pitch points in a slide deck presentation. Again, get and hold the attention of the source of money; That's the same.

Problems

Users are not (yet) attached directly to the internet. They are (nearly) all using a mobile computing device (a smartphone) to make a connection to the internet and some user agent to attach to the World Wide Web (WWW). Since the time of Netscape, the preferred user agent was the web browser. In some countries (2020) the preferred user agent as become Facebook, which is now (2021) engaged in an existential effort to ensure the pipeline of emergent users continues to choose one or more of their platforms, such as Instagram. The insight here is not new, users are fickle. The hot new toy of this Holiday season is in short supply now but will be forgotten in a year. Internet apps are not different. Facebook does not seem to understand, Google and Apple do. The user needs some sort of agent that will be attentive to their current, shifting desire for distraction from boredom.

Solutions

Attention is a valuable resource, use it well and wisely whether it is your own or your customer's.

Attention Networks

The concept that makes Artificial Intelligence most useful is Attention Networks, a standard deep-learning technique that lets an AI focus on specific parts of its input data. This tech underpins language models like GPT-3, where it directs the neural networks to relevant words in a sentence.[3]

Pitch Points

This is phrased in terms of a pitch to a venture capitalist, but the idea of grabbing and maintaining attention is a universal.

References

  1. Warren and Brandeis The Right to Privacy (1890-12-15) Harvard Law Review http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/classes/6.805/articles/privacy/Privacy_brand_warr2.html
  2. Charlie Warzel, The Internet Rewired our Brains., New York Times 2021-02-07. pp. R4-5.
  3. Will Douglas Heaven, Deepmind's Big Science Experiment Technology Review (2022-03) Vol 125 no 2 p. 31 ff.