Herbert Simon, the Attention Economy and Whuffie

“…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: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it”

– (Simon, H. A. (1971), “Designing Organizations for an Information-Rich World”, in Martin Greenberger, Computers, Communication, and the Public Interest, Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, p. 40-41).

The role of reputation in a post scarcity attention economy is quite interesting to me. In the post-scarcity scenario, all basic human material needs and most wants are readily met. In the highly hypothetical post scarcity scenario, the human need for positional goods would still need to be fulfilled, and attention would continue to be scarce in the presence of ever increasing information, barring some radical modification of human psychology.

This all reminds me of Doctorow’s Down in Out in the Magic Kingdom (free pdf download) and his Whuffie concept:

This abundance has brought about the end of labor and money, and the only thing that makes one person worth more than anyone else is “Whuffie”, a constantly updated rating that measures how much esteem and respect other people have for you. This rating system determines who gets the few scarce items, like the best housing, a table in a crowded restaurant, or a good place in a queue for a theme park attraction. (from Wikpedia’s entry on Down in Out in the Magic Kingdom)

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