John Hagel: Attention as a resource

John Hagel commented on my post about Linda Stone’s Attention talk at Supernova. He makes two great observations:

Linda is on to something significant here. I posted before about the emergence of attention as the scarce economic resource, but Linda is highlighting the growing social value of attention.

Linda’s comments remind me of a conversation I had ten years ago with a senior exec of a major telecommunications company. He proudly announced to me that his company had a twenty year plan: “In the first ten years, we will commercialize technology to help everyone connect anytime, anywhere. But the real money will be made in the next ten years. At that point, we will focus on providing technology to block access anytime, anywhere. Can you imagine how much people will pay for that capability?” Well, we’re just now entering into that second ten years . . . In the age of crackberry addiction, we are starting to search for ways to regain control of our attention.

I love the idea of attention as a resource. Where there’s a resource, there’s a market. We’re being bitten by Gilder’s and Moore’s Laws–bandwidth and CPU increased to the point where naive systems flood us with information. What we need now are sophisticated systems: we need to use that bandwidth and CPU to hold back the flood: data mining and the other machine learning disciplines will all play into this. SpamAssassin and other spam-filtering systems are the thin end of the wedge. Is anyone successfully using similar techniques (e.g., Bayesian classification) to filter and prioritize non-spam mail? I’d love to hear from you if you are.

I wonder how much of a role Asterisk and VoIP will play in building the new future. Despite the clever telecommunications executive John quotes, I don’t see any innovation from the telcos in helping us manage our inputs. It’s not until the hackers get their hands on the voice streams that we’ll see better systems. For example, Brian Aker converted his house to Asterisk and now his phone only rings between 11pm and 6am for special people he’s added to his white list. It’s a small example, but it’s definitely pointing the way to the future.