Michael Goldhaber put his finger on it. In his Wired article, “Attention Shoppers!” this theoretical physicist named the currency of the new economy. He wrote,
“…ours is not truly an information economy. By definition, economics is the study of how a society uses its scarce resources. And information is not scarce – especially on the Net, where it is not only abundant, but overflowing…So a key question arises: Is there something else that flows through cyberspace, something that is scarce and desirable? There is. No one would put anything on the Internet without the hope of obtaining some. It’s called attention. And the economy of attention is the natural economy of cyberspace.”
In 2020 Netflix released the documentary, “The Social Dilemma” which showed us, in frightening fashion, the tools and techniques businesses use to capture and control out attention. Yet the idea of “attention economy” is not new. In fact, Goldhaber’s article, quoted above, was published in 1997. In fact, long before Goldhaber, humanity has seen the value of attention. Psalm 37 speaks of attention’s great worth.
“Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.”
The ruminations of your heart, the imaginative processes of your mind, all of these energies have great power. Your attention shapes your attitude. Your attitude shapes your interactions with others and with all of creation. Your mental energies have great value (as evidenced by the businesses that have monetized it). Where will you invest your limited energy today? What will you spend time dreaming of? The psalmist makes a compelling case, attention given to God can never be squandered.