I felt like experimenting, so I posted this on my shortform:

In short, I am selling my attention by selling the right to put cards in my Anki deck, starting at the low price of $1 per card. (Current price $4)

I will create and add a card (any card that you desire, with the caveat that I can veto any card that seems problematic, and capped to a similar amount of information per card as my usual cards contain) to my Anki deck for $1. After the first ten cards (across all people), the price will rise to $2 per card, and will double every 5 cards from then on. I commit to study the added card(s) like I would any other card in my decks (I will give it a starting interval of 10 days, which is sooner than the usual interval of 20 days I usually use, unless I judge that a shorter interval makes sense. I study Anki every day, and have been clearing my deck at least once every 10 days for the past 5 months, and intend to continue to do so). Since I will be creating the cards myself (unless you know of a high-quality deck that contains cards with the information you desire), an idea for a card is enough even if you don't know how to execute it.

Money is a unit of caring, and everything should, in principle, be fungible for money at some (usually) non-infinite cost, including our knowledge and attention. In the long run, I suspect I value my attention and time at a rate higher than that implied by $1 per card, but I also suspect my value on it isn't so high as to make this experiment not point in the right direction. I also expect that this experiment will help expose me to new ideas and ways of thinking, and I'm curious to see what information people will ask me to add.

Advertisements work on a similar principle: a user uses a service (either a website, or a television channel, or similar) that costs the host resources to maintain, and in return implicitly agrees to watch and listen to messages provided by a sponsor, who pays the host to compensate them for providing the service to the user. While I have mixed feelings about advertisements as actually practiced in the modern world, this dynamic seems pretty reasonable to me when I state it that way. Perhaps what bothers me there is that modern advertisements often try to make me believe things that are untrue, or to be designed to appeal to the irrational parts of my lizard brain to manipulate my behavior in ways that aren't ideal. I also find many (not all) advertisements to be aesthetically cringeworthy, and I resent being subjected to aesthetically cringeworthy things without my consent. All of these are reasons that I would readily veto a card that fit such a description.

Without my consent? But I thought I just said that advertisements operate on the user's implicit consent to be shown advertisements- so why am I now saying that I object to being shown things without my consent? Because even if my consent is implicit, it isn't explicit. While I am a fan of implicit consent in many situations (tricky as it can be to navigate), my attention is a domain where I value being able to explicitly opt in and out. Since this post isn't about modern advertisements, I won't go into detail about that, but it matters that I'm voluntarily making the choice to sell my attention, and that I can choose to deny a transaction if I feel it will cause problems. It also helps that I'm making this offer and promoting it in a culture where I expect my intellectual dignity will be respected, even if I had forgotten to install safeguards.

I have added three cards so far (out of 17 that have been claimed so far), all three by JackInTheNet (who has given consent to me sharing the cards he added), which contain the following text: ({{brackets}} represent cloze deletions; In the absence of clozes, the card is plain text)

  • Jeff's Friendly Snek
  • Book: The Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon
  • Maximize Cooperative Information Transfer for {{Learning New Optimization}}
Proof that the 3 cards were added. -is:new shows only cards that have a review date scheduled

JITN said he took me up on the offer to use me as a vector for the propagation of memes, and to maximize cooperative information transfer (which was the inspiration for the third card); this seems to be backed up by the cards: the first two cards are a reminder of a thought experiment and a book, respectively, and the third is an imperative that JITN expects will make the world better. It's interesting to contrast these motivations with the motivations behind most advertisements; usually, advertisements ask you to buy a product, or use a service, or vote for a politician, or donate to a charity, usually the product, service, politician, or charity that paid for the advertisement. This very tight money circle is one of my problems with advertisements- rather than encouraging a holistic good way of conducting yourself in the world, modern advertisements are a symptom of the worst failures of capitalism (which I am usually a fan of). Sometimes the government does buy ads, and uses that to spread good messages, but it's a small portion of all advertisements, and even then, it's fairly heavy on system I appeals, which makes it feel hamfisted in a way Jack's exhortation to "Maximize Cooperative Information Transfer" doesn't. (An aside, I expect advertising to be one of many things that will be made better when quadratic funding is implemented)

Setting aside my concerns with modern advertising, I am actually quite excited about learning things that people want to pay me for. I generally suspect that when people are willing to pay for something with money, it indicates that the thing they are paying for is worth paying attention to, especially when there isn't an immediate financial payout for them that results from it, and especially when it's a "real person" paying for the thing, not some stranger or spreadsheet making the transaction. Because I want to take this seriously, and because I want to provide good value for those sponsoring the cards, it makes sense to use Anki for this, especially since Anki has been pretty stable for me over most of the past year - Anki ensures that the information is well-engrained in my mind, while also only taking up a minimal amount of time. I expect each card to take between 2 and 20 minutes of my time over the course of a modern human life, but will influence me throughout almost the entirety of my life.

Join In

While I started this post just to promote my own undertaking, Mati Roy (who also bought cards from me) wanted a top-level post inviting people to do the same as me. I'm excited by the positive reception I've gotten from my original idea, so if you also want people to pay you to put information into your attention, leave a comment with your offer. Let people know how you will consume the information, what your price is, and what the ideal method of payment is.

Chris Leong has also indicated interest in paying a similar amount as what I'm asking to users who regularly comment on discussions about decision theory. That doesn't describe me (despite my interest in the subject), but if that's you, let Chris know.

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Offer: n_th card you personally buy is n USD (doesn't matter if other people bought cards before you)

There's a capped to this offer, but it's probably high enough that it won't be reached

I will check the deck at least once per week for at least 16 weeks (if I miss a week, the timespan is increased by a week; if still not done a year from now, then money back; but that shouldn't happen).

I invite you to abuse this, but I also reserve the right to refuse transactions:)

I might accept anonymous buyers; if you're interested, talk to me here: https://sayat.me/MatiRoy

payment can be made to:

  • PayPal mathieu.roy.37@gmail.com
  • Bitcoin wallet: 3C7J2X3LswsmGewPi4a63jmiFAoUzCu3vE
  • Eth wallet: 0x4d06c5CdeaF69f76677629296a8C3D3B6901638D
  • other payment methods available on request

Additional notes:

Fermi estimate of time requirement: checking each cards 15 times for 15 seconds = 3m45s, so roughly 3-10 USD per card. The influence on my mind for cards I'll accept will probably mostly 'cost' me -10 to +15 USD. I also value the information I will gain about how this system plays out.

Glad to see you joining in on this!