Extracting Attention

It was many years back that I read Kevin Kelly say “your attention is your currency.” The futurist technologist was defining the most sought after asset of this new economy - your attention. Now of course that has always been true. We would not be drowning in ads and billboards without this aggressive competition for our attention.

But the supercomputers in our pocket and the unprecedented amount of intimate, personal data that we now willingly give away, mean that our attention is literally being mined. It is being extracted from us.

Tristan Harris gave a powerful TED Talk on this very topic. I encourage you to take the 16 minutes and watch it. Your thoughts are being shaped by someone else.

The great meditation traditions also teach us that your attention is everything. Mastering where you place your attention is quite literally the key to enlightenment or liberation. Even as meditation becomes quite the fad, this attainment has become harder today than it ever was.

A small number of huge corporations are aggressively competing to develop technology that is ever more irresistible to us. Their value system is terribly simple - it’s called profit. And we have seen the limitations of this narrow perspective on what it is that truly matters.

I resolve to take this seriously:

  • I will isolate my e-mail, social media and internet browsing times

  • I will turn off notifications in my devices and keep my phone on silence (not on vibrate)

  • I will start observing digital sabbath

Join me. Some of us need to stay free.