Pkm is an antidote to the attention economy

[[ 2021-01-23 ]] #attention-economy , #pkm

A negative result of the attention economy is lowered attention spans, memory, and other important cognitive abilities. Check out the Center for Humane Technology’s ledger of harm, a compilation of research outlining the negative effects of the attention economy.

PKM, including spaced repetition and zettelkasten, trains people to strengthen their memory and their ability to focus and avoid distractions. By helping someone overcome paralysis by over-stimulation, PKM gives people the tools to use the vast amount of digital information as a ocean of insight and wisdom to draw from. The internet becomes a vast basin of bits of information waiting to be synthesized and connected in novel ways and uniquely expressed. Perhaps this could eventually turn into semantic graphs as a way to annotate and index our collective thinking.

PKM also encourages self-awareness (zettelkasten enables one to have a more in depth relationship with their past, present, and future self), which is key to first recognizing that the extractive attention economy may be having negative effects on oneself in the first place.

Importantly, PKM may encourage more nuanced discourse. It can allow one to care about the details, to have the time and space to think about something over an extended period of time (internalizing insight and knowledge from content requires deliberate pacing and repetition). Since the attention economy rewards outrage, PKM can help someone properly process complex situations that have many layers of nuance, multiple sides, various narratives, etc.

“And when you commodify communication into chunks of posts and comment threads on Facebook, you remove context, nuance, and respect.”

  • Tristan Harris, [How to reform the attention economy business model of Big Tech MIT Technology Review](

Zettelkasten is a space of context, nuance, and respect. Even more specifically, atomic, synthesis-oriented writing counteracts the perverse incentives of the attention economy and zettelkasten provides a space for deep, contextual, and nuanced thinking.

PKM isn’t a direct solution, but it at least helps. It is probably one of the most effective things an individual can do to avoid the negative effects of the attention economy (in addition to things like meditation, tolerance, etc.)

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