Programmable attention

The review sessions of a Spaced repetition memory system don’t just help you remember things: it orchestrates your repeated attention over time across hundreds of tiny tasks, too many to manage by hand. Systems like these are a form of programmable attention. You use simpler forms of programmable attention all the time: inboxes with snooze and alarm features; bots which remind you of things; Twitter is a kind of programmable attention. What is the core properties of such systems? What is their potential reach?

Such systems are often focused on productivity, but I believe they can be used to support creative work—reading, thinking, expressing, problem-solving.

For more, as applied through spaced repetition: Spaced repetition systems can be used to program attention

This term is evocative, but it has unfortunate connotations of roboticism and alienation. I think I’ll ultimately want to find another.


Correspondence with Igor Dvorkin, 2020-05-12

Coaching is paying someone to program your attention