The Farmer and Farmer Review is a blog dedicated to asking wonderfully penetrating questions about business ethics in the sphere of technology. With the gracious permission of Jonathan Harris, I am reprinting an entire post from their site. Jonathan and Sep’s pithy, pungent insights can be found at farmerandfarmer.org.
HEALERS AND DEALERS
On the Web, there are two main kinds of companies: marketplaces and attention economies.
Marketplaces operate by connecting one group of people to another group of people and allowing them to conduct a transaction, of which they take a cut. Etsy connects buyers to sellers; Kickstarter connects creators to backers; Airbnb connects travelers to hosts; OkCupid connects daters to daters. Marketplace companies build tools to solve problems that exist in the world. At their best, they operate like healers — mixing up medicine to answer a need.
Attention economies operate by convincing users to spend large amounts of time online, clicking many things, and viewing many ads. These companies often masquerade as “communication tools” that help people “connect”. But in attention economies, most of the “connecting” happens alone, while you’re staring at a screen, and it often leaves you feeling empty. Attention economy companies operate less like healers and more like dealers — creating addictive experiences to keep people hooked.
Both kinds of companies fulfill urges that are already in us, but the way that they answer those urges is different.
Marketplaces aim to eliminate urges by feeding them quickly (find a date, book a room, etc.), while attention economies aim to keep the urges going forever (continuous updates, another cool video, more new messages, etc.).
There is an ancient pact between tools and their users which says that tools should be used by their users, and not the other way around. Good tools should help their users accomplish a task by satisfying some pre-existing urge and then getting out of the way. Attention economies, at their most addictive, violate this pact.
Like good medicine, good tools should appear briefly when you need them, and then disappear, leaving you free to get on with your life.
By Jonathan Harris
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This guy rocks.
The same is true of religion.
Many religious leaders and many religious organizations are deliberately focused on creating addictive bonds with their followers.
But for every malicious religious leader who is trying to attract followers instead of showing them how to unpack their treasures, there is a small army of junkies who would rather medicate their pain with religion, instead of heal it with tools.
The single most common complaint about Sapphire comes from the junkies who came for a toke and were offered a tool.
And resented it.
Copyright October 2013 by Arthur Burk
On the road, but looking toward home