Herbert Simon was perhaps the first person to articulate the concept of attention economics when he wrote:
“…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 1971, p. 40-41).
He noted that many designers of information systems incorrectly represented their design problem as information scarcity rather than attention scarcity, and as a result they built systems that excelled at providing more and more information to people, when what was really needed were systems that excelled at filtering out unimportant or irrelevant information (Simon 1996, p. 143-144).
I like especially the portion where Mr. Simon says “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”. This is a good description of many of my habits in using technology.
As a software developer (more precisely, a software tool developer), I’m particularly interested in his recommendation that “what was really needed were systems that excelled at filtering out unimportant or irrelevant information.” How can I better filter out information and yet take advantage of the wealth available? Good thoughts to ponder.