Product & Startup Builder

Follow up: Is Google building the Attention Economy? No

Added on by Chris Saad.
When I first covered Sam's post about "Is Google building the Attention Economy?" I chose to ignore the Economy part and focus on the Attention part.

You see, since Google decided to display some usage statistics in their Google Reader and allowed users to share the items they read, they started getting credited for starting to pay attention to 'Attention'.

That's fine with me. Google is big and popular and any little thing they do will typically be seen as more (or less) than what it is. Furthermore, Google has always paid attention to Attention - they just never called it that. Attention is very important.

But just a few hours ago, there was a comment to that original post that made me... upset. Maybe upset is the wrong word. But it definitely floored me.

Anne Currie Jan 30th, 2007 at 8:38 am


I think “My Google Attention” is coming and agree it will be a very good thing. What fascinates me about the subject is that the function is only possible because we appear to trust Google so deeply (I wrote about this recently

I suspect Google are becoming a “benign dictator”. A benign dictator is your ideal government (or corporation), you trust them enough to give them a free hand with your life - or your data - and in return they have the power and freedom to achieve marvellous, good things.
As you allude, it’s great while it lasts but can it last? Can a commercial benign dictator succeed where a political one never has or will all that power just be too tempting?

Wow Anne... Are you so willing to give up your rights so easily? You are, in effect, saying that you are happy for Google to absorb all your personal data - your digital identity (incidently your digital identity is quickly becoming a large proportion of your overall identity) - and you're going to TRUST them to be completely benevolent about it? Forever?

You want no leverage? None? You don't want any accountability? Ownership? Mobility? Economy? Transparency? Because while I love Google as much as the next person - they are not transparent. And they do not respect your Attention rights.

This brings me to my next point. Economy implies that something (property) has value (in this case your Attention Data and Attention Profile). It also implies that you can transfer your property (and its value). You can sell it and leveraged and do all sorts of fancy things. It also requires multiple participants in an ecosystem.

So to dig deeper into Sam's original question "Is Google Building the Attention Economy?" the answer is no.

Google is not building the Attention Economy. They are using their huge surface area to try to grab as much of your Attention Data as possible to target and sell ads on TV, Radio, Web and Print. They are increasingly becoming an 'Attention Aware Advertising Company'.

But they are by no means showing any signs of allowing you to export and use that data as part of a broader economy.

I'm sorry Anne - but I don't want a dictator running the Internet - not even a "seemingly benign one".

To put this in a broader context... the idea that any institution - including Government - can say 'Trust us, we can handle it and we don't need any oversight' is not only naive, but it's frightening to Orwellian proportions.