Time And Attention Broken Economy

In the U.S., anyway, it is said that time is money. But when somebody wastes your time, it usually isn't considered theft. Maybe it should be.

Spam and telemarketing are viable businesses because there is a broken economy of time. When a telemarketer has you on the phone, that person is on the clock and you aren't. The time you spend trying to filter out spam e-mail exceeds the time that was spent sending it to you. They spend some fixed amount of time to set up a mass mailing to 10,000,000 addresses. That time is negligible compared to the total time spent by the victims deleting the messages.

But the issue is more general. When a person holds up a line in a supermarket for 10 minutes to dispute the rejection of a 30 cent coupon, there is a similar imbalance. Clearly, that person does not put a high value on time -- but those waiting in line very well might.

One might imagine a fantasy solution in which people who waste other peoples' time would be automatically billed. For each person waiting in line, for each minute wasted, another "ka-ching" on the credit card. Spamming and telemarketing would of course no longer be economically viable, unless advertisers made the effort (as they now claim to do) to ensure that ads are delivered only to people with some interest in the product, who therefore would not bill for wasted time.

I just wasted two minutes of my time reading this...you have been automatically billed.

(Note the switch from I to you that invalidates the conclusion. It would be different if this page were forced on you against your will, say by a spam e-mail.)

The distinction isn't that clear cut though. You "spammed" the recent changes, obscuring other pages. I'm being sarcastic here -- but people are going to make spurious claims Basically you are advocating a micro-suit system. Anybody can sue anyone, no matter how ridiculous (at least in America). How much time do you think we'll spend dealing with frivolous suits like "I was behind a guy at the stop light and when it turned green he didn't go until the last second, causing me to miss the light and wait another forty seconds..."?
The time economy isn't broken. Every time you give out your phone number or email address you're giving them access to your time, just as you give them access to your money when you give out your PIN. Stop doing it.

It's not that simple. Often, information allegedly collected for one purpose (e.g., to notify customers of any safety recalls on Product A) is abused for a different purpose (e.g., to advertise Product B and waste my time). Privacy laws make it illegal, but they are not enforced.

It is that simple. Create a free email account just for untrusted use. Refuse to provide your phone number. I never get spam or telemarketing calls.

If only it were so. Most of the spam mails I get are sent to random recipient names at randomly chosen domains. I'm now deleting about 50 spam messages per day, wasting up to 25 minutes of my time. Also, I have failed to receive timely payment from my clients because the filters they use to block spam also blocked my invoices. This has cost me money in bank NSFs and possibly money in interest due to the impact on my credit rating.
Some years ago GeorgeCarlin did a short StandUp? segment on idiot drivers. He advocated issuing everyone a dart gun that fired suction darts with a flag on them that said, "idiot!". When someone did something rude or inconsiderate in traffic, you just shot a dart onto their car. Then, when a cop saw a car with more than, say, seven darts on it he would pull the guy over and give him a ticket for being an idiot.

I worked in an organization once that encouraged staff reporting. For everything. So if you saw someone doing a good job, you reported it in writing and it went into a folder maintained for each individual. If you saw someone doing something exceptional, something bad, witnessed something that simply shouldn't be happening, you would report it, and it went into the files.

Anyone was free to review his file on request, and to correct anything found there or, indeed, to "clear" the file according to certain established procedures. If something when badly wrong in a department, the files of those in the department were reviewed for clues about the conditions that would have led to the burp.

I would stress that these were not files of the conventional "HR Records" variety, and most of the input into them did not come from bosses or HR.

Fast forward to today's technologies. Clearly, in everyday life, there is no central agency that can be trusted with such a filing system. I can already see the hackles rising.

However, and please afford this the grain of salt it deserves, how about the Carlin dart gun metaphor? Instead of a centrally managed filing system, a new feature in your cell phone (assumes we all have one, just go with it) allows someone to "tag" you with their cell phone indicating that you've helped them or hurt them. Accumulating more than (n) "hurt" tags disables your phone until you rectify the condition (pay fine, contribute to charity, spend a day in jail, whatever).

Aside from several obvious buy-in, implementation, and abuse problems, it solves the privacy thing and provides an outlet for people to express their displeasure non-destructively.

Please pass the salt. -- GarryHamilton

Let me answer Carlin with Carlin. "Ever notice how everyone who drives slower than you is a moron, and everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac?" Therefore, using Carlin's conjuecture, all cars would be covered with suction darts, unless everyone was going at exactly the same speed at exactly the same time. The problem with TrustMetrics is you need TrustMetrics for the TrustMetrics (and that's not an ideal solution either). One (fictional) implementation is called left and right handed whuffie in DownAndOutInTheMagicKingdom?. -- JoeWeaver

OK, what if we tag the slow cars with green darts, and the fast cars with red darts? Yes, all cars would be covered with darts, but cops would only ticket cars that had very lopsided red:green ratios.

Hmm, what about the ones that had dozens of red and dozens of green? Probably speeding up and slowing down because they're drunk, come to think of it; I see that on the freeway frequently on weekend nights.

Actually... the people who drive faster and weave to do it are maniacs, I like to call them "Speed Racer", so they might get a flag. The absolute irritants are the total assholes who refuse to use the right lane, though they aren't passing... I'd use my quota of darts in a few seconds on those twits. -- MikeWarot
See also TimeIsMoney, SpamSolutions, AttentionEconomy, CarTagging

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