I actually have a legit question rather than a pithy one-liner about Bitcoins (and let me tell you, it’s really hard to ignore the urge)
How do you plan to get past the Bystander Effect? The phenomenon where people will witness an emergency but not do anything because they all assume someone else will take care of it. I would think this would put a massive wrench in this whole attention->action chain.
This is an issue I have thought a lot about, and a lot of my examples were developed in the course of long conversations with psychologists concerning exactly this effect. So it is worth noting that:
In 2008 a study by Mark Levine and Simon Crowther found that increasing group size inhibited intervention in a street violence scenario when bystanders were strangers but encouraged intervention when bystanders were friends.
One is less likely to be subject to the bystander effect if you are within a closely knit network of familiar relations.
If we are tracking all relations, such that the salient relations attract attention and we all have some indicators of those relations, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that we would relate to each other less as strangers and more as friends. Philosophers have long been concerned with the alienating effects of modern technology, and I’ve argued before that the Digital paradigm of networking is partly a revolutionary step because it reverses the trend of alienation. There’s a lot to say about this, for sure, but that’s the general shape of a response.
This direction of questioning is in one sense exactly right, since it comes from a recognition that global cooperation an Attention Economy would require must have some fundamentally different value systems, and right now if our value systems are “dog eat dog FYGM” then it will seem mighty unlikely that such cooperation would occur. Since I am arguing for a different set of Economic relations, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect this to take the form of a different set of values, ones that look quite different from our own. In fact, I take the Attenion Economy as partly a way of spelling out how the Digital Values play out in the real world as an organizing principle.
But describing a different value system is not the same thing as motivating those values, and obviously it will be really hard to motivate a value system we are unfamiliar with. Again, remember the question to the atheist: “If you don’t believe in God, why don’t you kill yourself? Why isn’t everything meaningless?” I can describe the secular value systems that atheists all over the world follow, but if you are stuck on the idea that MEANING MUST COME FROM GOD then all these systems will look like they are missing some vital component. And I can only talk about Self-Actualization so much before it starts to sound like idealistic visions of puppies and rainbows and world harmony, and obviously that will all sound nuts if you think that values can only be grounded on God.
I’m not a wide-eyed optimist about human nature, and I don’t think the levels of cooperation and coordination required are outside the scope of simple human ability or ignore the very real effects of the psychology of groups like the Bystander effect. You don’t have to be an optimistist in human nature to hold the basic humanist belief that people should be free to determine their own value systems without the imposition of God.
And similarly, you don’t have to believe that if all humans could just hold hands and love each other we could coordinate our activity to provide for ourselves. Instead, I’m arguing that if you set up a system where the easiest default behavior helps coordinate the system, and there are low barriers to contributing to the system, and everyone is free to contribute however they want, that the power of the whole network will we be in a position to handle the coordination problem.
We also, by the way, know from the Milgram experiments that people are willing to to extraordinarily difficult things, some of which might go against their own personal values, if they are convinced that doing so is for the greater good; but they they won’t go through with those actions when commanded to do so by someone they consider to be an illegitimate authority. So the Attention Economy will only work if people are convinced that by contributing to it, one is contributing to the greater good.
But this is just to say that if the system works, the system will work. I’m still trying to show how it will work, so I’ll try to proceed.