Attention Economics

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Attention Economics is the study of economics as it relates to the intellectual resources of individual sapients, particularly as they operate within a shared computational resource-space.

In a world of ubiquitous information, the degree of attention any given sapient is capable of giving to a particular subject is sharply limited. Particularly in the case of utopian virches, where the very architecture of reality precludes the scarcity of physical goods, computational resources (intellectual capacity) become the only scarce goods directly manageable by virch inhabitants.

This has led the development of a system of attention economics. Under this system, the attention of a sapient is divided into two tiers -- a lower, "public" band, used to receive notifications and solicitations from other inhabitants of the virch, and a higher "private" band, occupied by the thoughts and sense of the individual and kept generally separate from the lower band.

Individual sapients are allowed to "sell" a certain portion of their private intellectual resources for a contracted duration. The conditions of these sales can be enforced via the mechanisms of the virch. Sales may be made to pool intellectual resources toward solving a particular research problem or collating large bodies of data. They may involve attributing a certain portion of a sapient's private attention to a particular religious/political/philosophical advertisement -- whether the sapient chooses to bite the hook and solicit further information on this viewpoint is entirely up to ver.

Individuals within an attention economy solicit one another's public bands when they wish to offer a particular bit of information or request a portion of another sapient's private band. Tailored filters decide which kinds of solicitations to pass through to the private band, so that individuals may choose to accept or reject those that may be of interest to them. When an individual's private band is not "open" to accepting or offering information, ver senses are routed entirely into ver own private band, wherein ver's subjective experience of the world resides.

Under such a system, subversive, unsolicited memetics of any kind are stictly forbidden. The law treats such invasions as trespassing or theft. Punishment often involves a "garnishing" of intellectual resources to compensate for those lost by the victims. Sometimes these can go as far as a virutal death-sentence, wherein the perpetrator is suspended indefinitely so that the computational resources that would be otherwise tied up in ver simulation can be attributed to ver victims.

The wealth of an individual under this kind of system is simply the amount of intellectual bandwith ve is "owed" by ver peers. Though laws concerning the earning of interest vary, they are generally very restrictive, so as to check the growth of those individuals who might otherwise take over an entire virch through a monopolization of computational resources. Inflation and deflation occur as the capabilities of a virch's computational substrate vary, due to such factors as upgrades, overloading, maintenance overhead, and so on.

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Text by David Jackson
Initially published on 19 April 2004.