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The Dawn of the Dependence Economy: Your Attention Was Never the Endgame

It required an upfront conversation to get the directions, followed by significant effort and consternation to decipher them en route.

In order to rattle off a narrative like that, tethered to a landline phone in your kitchen, you had to maintain a detailed map of the area in your head.

You and your visitor had to have a shared awareness and contextual understanding of major landmarks and geography, allowing you to shortcut details: “Can you get yourself to Interstate 70?

But every wrong turn and missed landmark represented new learning and discovery, a chance to expand your own internal map and build your resilience as you were able to troubleshoot and get back on track.

As our awareness fades, GPS-enabled navigation becomes something we “can’t live without.” The reliance economy Today, much of our existence centers on the attention economy, where our focus and time are mined, and the resulting data is manipulated and sold as a commodity in service of driving advertising revenue and feeding algorithms.

We’re becoming painfully aware of the downsides of this arrangement as services architect themselves to put us in a perpetual “can’t look away” state.

What the researchers found was that the group who had already used the internet for hard answers was significantly more likely to use it to find easy answers as well.

As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more dependent on it in our daily lives.” As technology advances, we have begun offloading more and more of our cognitive functions and skills to our devices.

In close relationships, like a marriage, ownership of life tasks is frequently split between the couple, with one person taking responsibility for each area, like paying bills, cooking, or managing car maintenance.

If a spouse dies suddenly or a couple gets divorced, our cognitive support is stripped away and we are left to relearn skills or find outside help with things for which we may have had no responsibility over the years.

Yet despite the risks, in this case, reliance has an evolutionary benefit in helping us maintain long-term relationships by forging tighter bonds through shared dependence in a (hopefully) mutually beneficial exchange.

Even if our relationship with a company is mutually beneficial in the short term, the chances of a long-term mutually beneficial relationship are almost nonexistent.

The expanding capabilities of artificial intelligence (A.I.) are going to dramatically accelerate the number of tasks we fully offload to devices.

But what they’re missing is that this isn’t a race to create a superintelligence — this is a race to replace human skills and build the next “can’t live without it” monopoly.

The car is a massive enhancement to our ability to travel and is incredibly empowering, but in our drive for monopolization, we’ve stripped that empowerment away by developing a system that locks us into car-based travel.

We’ve planned and built our entire environment around vehicles, to the point that it is nearly impossible to live without access to motorized transportation.

Additionally, over time we’ve made cars more and more complex to fix and maintain, creating a dependence on an intricate system of mechanics and dealers in order to use them.

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