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The State of Capitalism in Our Attention Economy

The phrase “attention economy,” created by psychologist, economist, and Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon, refers to a method of managing information that sees human attention as a finite commodity and applies economic theory to solve various difficulties. With the increased output of material in today’s environment, paying attention has been severely damaged, and content consumption has increased dramatically. Attention permits information to be filtered so that just the most significant information is collected from the environment while unimportant details are ignored. Resources such as land and capital are no longer rare in today’s world as they once were. However, the most crucial thing that capitalism still lacks today is ‘attention.’ As a result, in this podcast episode from the Capitalisn’t series on the Chicago Booth Review’s website, venture investor Albert Wenger investigates the current state of capitalism in our attention economy.

Capitalism in our attention economy

The episode implies that, aside from a scarcity of various materialistic things, the most concerning scarcity afflicting capitalism these days is a scarcity of people’s attention. This scarcity, however, cannot be solved by capitalism without significant changes in how we govern society and ourselves. Albert, on the other hand, believes that capitalism works effectively for the things it excels in. However, he emphasizes that after running a system for a particular amount of time, its drawbacks will become apparent. However, this does not imply that we expect the strategy to be good at everything and that the strategy as a whole cannot be called useless if it is anticipated to work for things that were not taken into account when it was developed. It should also be noted that treating current problems using classic ways may not be successful since we often utilize unsuitable tools. He claims that the way we have priced attention is through advertising. According to him, we may see a favorable reaction to capitalism in our attention economy if we substantially expand economic freedom, information freedom, and psychological freedom. Finally, Winger believes that in order to better the state of capitalism in our attention economy, we might employ systems to expose the finest math material on YouTube, except that YouTube has no economic incentive to do so. We have no trouble constructing excellent filters with some human curation and then some algorithms taking that human curation, in his opinion. It is only that the filters’ objective function is incorrect, he considers so because it is economically incentivized.

The condition of capitalism in our attention economy is a topic worth discussing because attention is almost absent in today’s society. The above excerpt summarizes what Albert Winger said about the matter in a podcast edition of the Chicago Booth Review’s Capitalisn’t series.

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