The Next Web Conference 2017

James Williams

Why (and How) to End the Attention Economy

May 2017

In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley lamented that the defenders of freedom in his time had ‘failed to take into account…man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’
In the design of digital technology, we’ve made exactly the same mistake. In the ‘attention economy,’ where technologies win by maximizing the amount of our time and attention they capture, design increasingly exploits our non-rational psychological vulnerabilities in order to persuade us toward goals that may not align with our own.
This has produced a suite of ‘deep distractions,’ or cognitive and behavioral externalities, that pose a major threat to human self-determination at both individual and collective levels.
Moving beyond the attention economy is thus an urgent task for society. Doing so requires a coordinated effort of systemic change, which I will describe in this talk.

James Williams


James Williams is a design ethicist and a co-founder of the Time Well Spent campaign....


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