Spending Attention & Instinctive Drives

Attention and time are our most precious commodities. Instinctive drives within us cause us to spend them irresponsibly.

The Value Of Attention

We are conscious beings that interpret the world from our own perspectives. This makes our attention and time the most valuable commodities we have.

When we say that we pay attention to something, it is quite literal. There are only so many things we can focus on, and to focus on one thing in any given moment blurs out the rest of the world.

Every moment we experience eats away at the total supply of attention we will have in our lives. To live a life of purpose, and avoid wastefulness, it is important to focus on what matters.

Instinctive Drives

Human beings did not evolve for optimal function in the memetic environment. There was no designer for the human body or mind. Instead, we got here step by step, kludging different pieces together into something that resembled a working whole.

Our brains are not rational. And though memes often win over genes, memes are still selected on the basis of biological factors.

Try taking an exam without having eaten beforehand, and you’ll be less able to think clearly. Watch an old man’s gaze wander from his newspaper as a pretty young girl walks by. Look at how a kid’s behavior changes when he’s being bullied at school.

Food, sex, fear, and danger. The most relevant things to us at the base animal level, we cared about them before we ever evolved consciousness and language.

Instinctive drives within us still control how we process memes. They guide our attention. And as we know, attention is the most valuable thing we have.

Spending Attention In The Face Of Instinct

We are bombarded with memes in the war for attention, and our instinctive drives increase the pressure. Any memes that leverage food, fear, sex, and danger are attractive on an instinctual level.

Think about driving down the highway, listening to talk radio. Suddenly, you see the bloody wreckage of a car crash by the side of the road. You’re not going to remember what the people on the radio were saying, as all your attention is pulled to the danger by the side.

You’re in college, studying late at night in the library. Your phone pings, and it’s a crush of yours, inviting you over to spend the night. Your heart race increases; what were you reading again? Try staying focused now; most likely, you’re off to the dorms.

In these cases, your attention is being pulled away by physical manifestations of danger and sex. But memes don’t need that. News stories and advertisements leverage all of our instinctual drives to capture our attention. Reality TV shows about sex; serial killers on the news; fast food ads with burgers that fill the whole screen.

The world is full of thieves and thieving memes, vying to steal your attention by manipulating your instinctive drives. If you want a healthy account balance, you’ll need to work on your mind memetics to develop resistance. Make something else in your head even more deserving of your attention, by any means necessary.


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