#22 – Train of Thought Robbery

train robbery

There I was, peacefully sitting there, in a focused state of deep work writing a post for 52Musings. Suddenly, an ad from a streaming internet music site hijacks my brain and before I knew it, I’m on another web site for a propane blow torch that incinerates those pesky weeds from your beautiful backyard garden beds. The funny thing is that the blow torch company didn’t ask permission for my attention. Harnessing the fierce and controlling protocol of Jesse James or Butch Cassidy, they coerced my train of thought to stop in its tracks, and, at gunpoint, loaded their dusty bags with units of my attention.

“In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: the attention of its recipients.” – Herbert Simon (1971)


According to Cisco …

(Cisco is the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in networking for the Internet)

Global internet traffic in 1992 was 100 GB per day.

100 GB is roughly 10 HD movies.

There are 86,400 seconds in every day.

Global internet traffic in 2015 was 20,235 GB per second.

That is 1.7 trillion GB per day (actually it’s 1,748,304,000).

Cisco is anticipating a three fold increase by the year 2020.

According to Jeremy …

(Jeremy is not a global leader in networking infrastructure)

Gross daily attention capacity per person = 1,440 minutes

On an individual level, this will likely never change.

Net daily attention capacity per person (after 8 hours of sleep) = 960 minutes

As of today, the total “attention market” is 7.5 billion people.

Total attention market x individual net daily attention capacity is big ass number.

The amount of information or content being created grows exponentially, while our available attention stays the same. According to Kevin Kelly, the concept of filtering will present a more efficient way of finding the needles in the haystacks. While filtering will hopefully provide a closer alignment between the available content and your attention capacity, there is still an overwhelming amount of data being generated everyday.

“It would consume more than a year’s worth of our attention to merely preview all the new things that have been invented or created in the previous 24 hours” – Kevin Kelly from his book, The Inevitable

Infobesity painting

Given this information, attention would seem tremendously valuable.

Could attention be the new currency?

Currency has changed dramatically over the course of history.  We started by bartering cows for framing material, trading shells for food, exchanging early coins for services, transacting in gold backed paper and now just being mystified at the operation of fiat currency. Many people work with information or data rather than building something, milking something or growing something. As the information economy continues to grow, the currency being exchanged could begin to look quite different.

What’s the internal value of your attention?

Attention works as an internal resource providing value by focusing on goals that you want to accomplish, things you want to learn about and experiences that bring you joy. Based on earlier calculations, each of us has roughly 960 attention units (AU) each day. Just like your paid time off (PTO) at work, it’s a use it or lose it approach.

Each of these minutes will have a different yield based on the evaluation of the experience spending them. Internally calculating the value of each AU could be as simple as the concept of a charge back model. Anything that receives a questionable grade after finishing the experience could be applied to the charge back model. Social media, for example, could potentially fall into this category. While it’s difficult to quantify the potential time suck of social media, think about assigning an internal dollar value to activities. For example, checking Facebook will now cost me $20. You are now allocating an internal cost to your attention by assigning a monetary value.

What about the external value of your attention?

Everyday, we allow other people and companies to benefit from our attention, sometimes without even knowing it. The external value of each AU is highly subjective. It’s largely dependent on that individual’s personal experience and network influence.

Can we invoice train of thought robbers?

The attention economny



His real name is Mike Merrill. Inspired by the crowd-funding concepts that the digital arts collective, Etoy, was employing, he decided to try a unique way to fund his own creative projects.

Merrill applied the concept of an initial public offering (IPO) to himself.

In 2008, he offered 100,000 shares of himself at $1.00 per share.

As of May 26, 2017, the price per share was $5.25.

Below is a performance snap shot from 2008 – 2017:

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 9.58.29 AM

Shareholders in KMIKEYM effectively own the attention of Mike Merrill. Merrill uses the funds to kickstart various creative endeavors that, if successful, will provide the shareholders a return. Each project is presented to the shareholders for a vote, and Merrill will not pursue the project without majority approval from his shareholders.

Shareholder control is not limited to the creative projects. Every aspect of Merrill’s life is subject to scrutiny and approval by the shareholders. Personal activities are in scope.

Below is a vote request for a project discussing shareholder control of romantic relationships. Actually, he is asking for permission to begin dating after a long hiatus. Fortunately for him, the shareholders approved.

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 3.37.18 PM

What’s Nextio?

Nextio is a start-up that allows individuals to monetize their attention. After setting up a profile on their platform, users can choose certain topics of interest. They do not receive any compensation for messages related to these topics. However, if someone wants to send the user a message outside of these topics, they are required to pay for that users attention. Users set their own pricing, which is usually anywhere between $.50 and $1.00 per message. Money does not change hands until a response is initiated. Linked In has been charging for targeted email messaging through their Premium platform for years. With Nextio, you get a piece of the pie.

Getting personal

As I dug into the idea of the attention economy, I ran across a post from Simon de la Rouviere. He conducted his masters research on the noise of information overload and concepts of reducing noise for focus and clarity. One of the posts on his blog presents the concept of the Personal Attention Bond (PAB).

An excerpt from the Dave Kansas book The Wall Street Journal Complete Money & Investing Guidebook

“Bonds are a form of debt. Bonds are loans, or IOUs, but you serve as the bank. You loan your money to a company, a city, the government – and they promise to pay you back in full, with regular interest payments.”

The idea of PABs are similar to the concept of the personal IPO and KMIKEYM.

Step #1 – I issue a bond in exchange for funds.

Step #2 – The bondholder receives coupons that qualify for interest in my attention.

Step #3 – The bondholder presents content for me to view and provide feedback.

Step #4 – The bondholder exchanges a coupon for my participation.

Step #5 – I view the content, comment and mark the task complete.

Step #6 – The coupon is destroyed.

can I have your attention

While these ideas are thought-provoking and could be turned into exponentially entrepreneurial ideas, the word attention brings a far simpler thought to mind.

Depending on how I spend my 1,440, attention can be a cost center for me. Conversely, my attention can be a major profit center for those companies that can harness it, and connect it to people that can monetize the information.

While the trend of monetizing attention is gaining momentum, it will always come down to a decision of proper allocation of a very personal and extremely limited resource.

It’s 100% in my power to control the fixed asset that is my attention.

Am I feeding myself or am I feeding the machine?

Pay attention to your attention. Or someone else will (or won’t).



More on Nextio

PBS – History of Money

More on KMIKEYM from Wired

More on Personal Attention Bonds

Want to buy some KMIKEYM?

Who the hell is Cisco?

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