You can hold 7 +/- 2 variables, or “chunks” in working memory, and actively think about 4 of them at once.
There is little evidence that we can reliably construct a conscious thought in less than 1/6 second. This means you can have a maximum number of 6 context switches, or cycles, a second.
Using an average human lifespan of 77 years, and an average sleep-time of 8 hours a day, we get approximately 51 years of consciousness. There are 1.609 billion seconds in that time. Multiplying that by the maximum speed of a conscious response gives us 9.654 billion context switches in a human lifetime.
Now that I’m 29, I’ve burned off my spare change, with 3.624 billion context switches out the window. I have only 6.03 billion context switches left before I expire.
Really big numbers are hard to get a feel for, so let’s zoom in closer. One thirty second television commercial consumes 180 cycles.
Now let’s look out at the world. The sun (solar, wind, fossil fuels), and the moon/earth system (geothermal, tidal, mineral reduction), are responsible for all the energetic inputs into life. These inputs are effectively boundless; they could meet the energy needs for personal nutrition and to operate artifacts of an arbitrarily large number of human beings.
Humans did not evolve in a phenomenal universe quite so boundless. For most of history we have had extremely limited abilities to manipulate the world around us. That limitation is rapidly falling away. For most of the people reading this, including myself, scarcity itself is already scarce.
However, the one thing that remains scarce in an “abundance economy” is attention. Scarcity tends to push a market away from a reciprocal and towards a transactional economy; one prerequisite of such an economy is a unit of measure.
So now we’ve got an idea of what one would measure in an attention economy, the question that occurs to me is how would you have a reliable system that allowed for the exchange of such coinage?
I suspect I may know an answer to that question, but that will have to wait for a further installment.