Resource: Tristan Harris on the attention economy

This is a good interview on the Tim Ferriss show, covering the Attention Economy and extractive economics more generally.

Recommend.

The fundamental place that went wrong was when we attached financial success directly to the capturing of human behaviour, the controlling and shaping of human behaviour. Because that’s where the persuasive technology stuff comes in. Because those principles became applied to “How do I keep you engaged?”


With the follow button, instead of just adding someone as a friend, which is the Facebook model, the bidirectional connection model, followers and the follow button and model created a reason why you would always get new email.

And so that was this beautiful invention that got people coming back, and ultimately to become addicted to getting attention from other people. And the same thing with the like button.

Instead of persuading to capture your attention, it was much cheaper to get people hooked to seeing how much attention they got from other people. Because I don’t have to do anything to you, you are now autonomously going back to see, “How many views did I get…? How many likes did I get?”

And I think that’s where went wrong, is when we tied business success and billions of dollars to the amount that we captured attention.
And we have to go through a mass decoupling between business success and capturing human beings. And that’s going to be an uncomfortable transition. It’s a big transition, I think, that’s of the scale of going from an extractive energy economy of fossil fuels to a regenerative energy economy.

The metaphor that we make is there are only so many environmental resources, and drilling for oil worked great for generating a whole energy economy that gave us all this prosperity but now, unless we want to deal with climate catastrophe we’ve got to switch to a regenerative energy economy that doesn’t directly couple profit with extraction.

The same thing is here, except that the finite substrate that we’re extracting from is our own brains…
and we have to decouple this relationship that profit is directly coupled with the extraction and move it to a more regenerative model where we’re not the cow, or the product, but we’re the customer.

Tristan HarrisThe Tim Ferriss Show #387

Eric Schmidt on the tech scene

Here’s more on ‘scenius’ – this time from Eric Schmidt:

The world is much smaller than it seems. If you’re an outsider looking at our world [the world of tech], somehow you think it’s this vast world, but to me it seems like about a hundred people, and they all know each other, they’ve all been on each other’s boards, they were all working towards a common goal.

I’ve since learned that this is how industries develop. So when you go back to the starting of the automobile industry or the starting of any other industry, it was a small community and everyone benefited by working together even if they were competing.

As an aside, when I first came to Google, I developed a habit of calling Terry Semel, who was the then CEO of Yahoo! who was our primary competitor, to congratulate him for every deal he got. And he developed the habit of calling me to congratulate me for my getting every deal. And the reason, aside from being a good person, which he was, was that we knew that if he got a customer to buy their product, we would shortly follow into that account. And he knew that if we got a customer using this, he knew that he would shortly follow into the account.

So there’s a real camaraderie around the building of these new network platforms … and they’re a relatively small group for much of their time.

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google – The Tim Ferriss Show Ep. #367

Caterina Fake: 5 Cs

If you look at all of the companies that I’ve been involved with and the investments that I’ve made, they are companies that emphasise creativity, communication, connection, collaboration and community.

Caterina Fake – Tim Ferris Show #360

Caterina Fake co-founded Flikr, where they popularised – newsfeeds, tags (which later evolved into hashtags), followers and likes. She played a key role in the development of Etsy, Kickstarter, and a many others besides.

These five Cs are values that she describes as being key to the success of her projects.

What role do they (could they, should they) play in yours, not just for you and your team, but for your partners, donors, customers, clients?

Three sentences to focus your work

My product is for people who believe __________.

I will focus on people who want __________.

I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get _________.

Seth Godin on The Tim Ferris Show Episode 343 (1 hr 9 mins, ish)

Do it now, and start small

Here’s a great case study in doing it now and starting small from Fast Company founder Alan Webber. It’s about how Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen Bank, and ended up helping millions of families to a more prosperous future. Weber Concludes:

Start small. Do what you can with something you care about so deeply that you simply can’t not do it. Stay focused, close to the ground, rooted in everyday reality. Trust your instincts and your eyes: do what needs doing any way you can, whether the experts agree or not. Put practice ahead of theory and results ahead of conventional wisdom.

Start small. If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t work, change what you’re doing until you find something that does work. Start small, start with whatever is close at hand, start with something you care deeply about. But as Muhammad Yunus told the KaosPilots, start.

Alan Webber, Rule #38 from his Rules of Thumb

Read the whole piece at TimFerris.com.

It’s not for you

It’s so easy to want everyone to love what we do.

When we’re writing, we want everyone to think it’s great.

In our work building a service or product, we want everyone to buy in – to join us, or support us in some way.

This leads to problems:

  1. By trying to make something that pleases everyone, we end up making something boring and lukewarm. We’re not happy with it, and lots of people might think it’s okay… but no-one thinks it’s that great.
  2. Trying to make something that pleases everyone sets the bar impossibly high. Nothing is loved by everyone. And nothing will ever be ready to share if “universally adored” is what we’re aiming for. We’ll be paralysed.

The answer is to be clear in our mind who this is for – even if it’s just for us. Make something for the smallest possible audience, and build from there.

If you don’t like it, why should anyone else?

If no-one likes it – it’s either not very good or you haven’t found the your audience.

If some people like it – and you want to serve that particular “some” – then you’ve got something you can work with. Serve them well. Serve them again. Make it better.

And for everyone else – the people who don’t like it, don’t get it – that’s fine.

Its not for everybody – it can’t be for everybody. So you can smile when you say it: “It’s not for you.”

Note

I’ve absorbed this idea from some of the thinkers I’ve found most helpful in learning how to do what I do well. On the one hand, it’s almost pure Seth Godin. But it’s also Steve Blank, Lean, and the mvp (more on that another time). And Tim Ferris riffs on this too. There are probably others but for now, thanks to the above.