Social Attention Income: A Vision for a Utopian Approach to Limiting Global Attention

Victor Anastasiu
6 min readJul 3, 2023


Living in the Socialist Republic of Romania until the age of 13 has shaped my perspective profoundly.

In this article, I propose a socialist approach to attention distribution on a global scale. While it may seem utopian, I see numerous benefits and only a few downsides to implementing such a system. Additionally, there are simple technical solutions available to make this vision a reality.

Attention Allocation Example

There are 5 billion people on Earth with access to the internet and each one has a maximum of 5 hours per day of attention TO OTHERS time. I was very generous to out 5 as normally goes to 0 but we can put any time here as an example for the thought. This means there is a maximum 25 billion hours of humanity’s attention per day to each other. We all fight for it. There is no more than this.

5 hours per day per person means each one can claim for maximum 18,000 secs of attention from ALL others per day. This is 540,000 secs per month. If you claim more it means you leave another person without the possibility to receive attention. I am not going into the narrative that in many ways attention equals love, so I will let this circulate in other serious scientific fields.

18,000 seconds per day is the equivalent of a tweet being read in 2 seconds by 9,000 people. A person can eat his quota per day with one tweet. 9,000 people is half the size of an average stadium so not little.If you want to post also an instagram reel of 1 sec of attention so you should wait until tomorrow to be distributed to 18,000 followers. You want to send an email, keep always 2000 secs of other’s attention for each day 🙂

If the content is good and or inspirational , then it will get shared by others and reach far. Your tweet retweeted by all 9,000 people is 81M.

To put this in perspective, a random Elon Musk tweet reaching 40M people consumes the attention quota of 444 people. Or is more than his quota for a year. I put Elon Musk as an example (and not Messi or Kardashians) as it is not how clever, stupid, good or bad you are, it is about what one of the other 443 people was about to say and now does not have room for it.

Building Your Personal Solar System

Imagine the extended reach of your digital content as your personal solar system, with you in the center as the Sun. This circle represents your largest family, where each person should receive approximately the same amount of attention. Rather than focusing on the number of people, this circle is measured in seconds of attention, amounting to 18,000 seconds per day. This attention sphere does not have clear boundaries as it heavily depends about the nature of the broadcasted information and how much time needs to be decoded on the receiver’s end. Think of it as your Oort cloud.

Rules and Implementation

Under this system, any unused attention can be carried over to the next days. Individuals can leverage AI tools for inspiration, but doing so will consume a portion of their attention quota. It’s important to note that attention quotas cannot be inherited or transferred between individuals.

Existing algorithmic rules governing social networks can continue to operate, as they can optimize attention within an individual’s circle. However, the claimed attention (i.e., cumulative time spent by the audience on one’s content) should be capped per user per day across multiple platforms, such as Google, TikTok, Meta, Medium, YouTube, and others.

The system can only work if applied to the entirety of content platforms. The good thing is that there are not so many. I don’t think they will lose business, more probably they will win as the number of authentic connections will rise.

Broader Implications

Implementing this system would lead to several immediate consequences. People would become more selective and conscious of the quality of their followers, as reaching a larger audience would require a coherent and genuine network. Additionally, individuals would pay more attention to the quality of their messages, as content that isn’t reshared would fail to scale. Developing relationships with one’s “Idol” would become a gradual process, fostering a healthier two-way street. Furthermore, people would carefully consider the best type of content they produce, be it written, visual, or spoken, to optimize their engagement. Consequently, miscommunication would decrease as information has time to digest in the minds of individuals much closer to each other. Leaders will be more grounded as no one will proclaim them so easy as “their Queen”.

In fact, this is not a novel concept. Throughout history, cities, countries, and cultures have expanded until they reach the threshold of effective communication. When stretched beyond this limit, the governance of such entities becomes challenging. In human societies, this results in a disconnected community where the core message becomes distorted and loses its essence. This state of affairs is unnatural, self-centered, and leads to various forms of disconnection. It can give rise to the emergence of false idols, promote miscommunication, or even both, as we observe in the present situation. Most importantly, it infringes upon the fundamental right of individuals to be acknowledged and seen.

The Profound Nature of Attention

Our most scarce resource today is not air, water, lithium or bees. It is our conscious attention.

All we define as human in our life is based on how we consciously perceive this world and as far as we know it, we are some unique creatures equipped with a conscious mind.

It allows us to imagine life, tell stories, do equations, speak to each other and so on. But, as happens with any other organ, it comes with a term and condition for usage and some limitations: we can only use it to hallucinate (in the bad sense of the process) or to be creative (in the good sense) for a limited number of hours per day.

For most of our evolution this was not at all an issue as exploring the world as physical beings fits within the scope of the conscious mind as an organ.

As an early nomad human you can walk around, discover a mountain, a river, another being, settle down or move forward. Meet others. Stay with the ones you like, where you like or move away. Digital information and biology moving closer together.

Slowly, but accelerating, information starts to dissociate with biology. Drawings on the walls, books, phones, internet. Now digital information starts to mutate and multiply via transformers or visual transformers using a mechanism called self-attention. Ironic somehow to name it like this.

During this long process, some people realized that while the information is in a dissociative state “between” us, tit can be altered. Thus basically changing one’s world.

Was not anymore interpreting and believing the movement of the sun but in the word written by another human.

As the complexity of this dissociative space grew, so grew the complexity of human organization to pre-process the information before reaching other human minds: religions, states, doctrines, industries and so on. Through direct power or manipulation. From individual level to higher nation or culture scales.

Of course authentic communication and love and honest people always exist but as things become more complex, so becomes the process of navigating through manipulations.

Now we are at a point where two exponential trends: interconnectivity and multiplication of human-like information (agents) are entering a resonance phase where they amplify each other into a hyper- complexity

From this point over I see two ways where we can brace for impact. Impact in the sense that we will live in a world where people will slowly disconnect from all information and ingest a little from an ever growing pie of human-like inflated information.

Two things can happen:

  1. People will produce less NEW information leading to less chances to fundamental breakthroughs
  2. OLD information will be clustered in more and more patterns leading to more divisive ideas and lack of empathy

As a final consideration, for those inclined towards a capitalist approach, a provision could be made to allow individuals to sell up to 50% of their attention quota to those who desire greater visibility. This would create a social attention universal basic income (UBI) model.

Welcome to the Socialist Earth Republic, where attention is a shared resource :).