Infinite Choices, Finite Attention: Building a Mind Monopoly in the Digital Landscape

When considering what eggs to buy in the grocery store, most people aren’t thinking about which brand to buy. Eggs are eggs. They grab the carton that’s right in front of them because  it’s the most convenient.

This launched a whole secondary market in grocery stores. Slotting fees were born. Manufacturers pay to gain prime real estate on a limited number of shelves. The winner of the eye-level shelf determines purchasing habits long before you get to make the choice.

When MrBeast asked his fans to move other chocolate brands on Walmart’s shelves he was maximizing his brands shelf space without paying into these slotting allowances. The internet has created infinite shelf space for products to exist. Competing in the stores (once you’re in) is just about moving things around. This availability bias is removed from what we consume through the internet.

The production cost for digital “goods” has plummeted. The internet is run by media and code. Anyone can create content and soon anyone will be able to code with LLMs. Slotting fees don’t dominate the digital world. If you want a chance at grabbing people’s attention your project must appear as good, or better, then the alternatives that exist.

Infinite self space gives people unlimited choices.

The secret to maximizing your internet shelf space is to have a mind monopoly that dominates digital distraction.

Premiums On Brevity

The amount of information available to you creates a premium on brevity. An infinite number of distractions exist today. Notifications compete for the real estate on your home screen every minute of the day.

What is unfamiliar gets left out for abbreviation. Any substance evaporates with the insights that didn’t make the final cut during creation. Sacrificed in an effort to hook your attention. 

When you have so much competing for your attention, your desire is to make information processing quick and concise. Unfortunately, this creates gaps in your understanding. Gaps that create an opportunity to be filled.

Create A Mind Monopoly

To compete and stay relevant with infinite shelf space requires mastering novel tactics to integrate how people think. Your value is no longer just the metrics on a balance sheet or the number of followers on social media.

The value is a function of the space you occupy in someone’s mind.

It’s the strength of habits you form with your customers and audience. When your product or content gets integrated into daily routines or emotion triggers you own a monopoly on shelf space (a mind monopoly).

These habits make you irreplaceable by any other distraction. The association is too strong to be ignored.

Entrepreneurs often build products that are only marginally better (rarely ever 10x) than what exists in the market. Content creators just copy something they saw that was doing well on another platform. They create content to ride the upcoming trend.

Incremental improvements will never build habit substitutions.

Small improvements are not powerful enough for people to switch over from the alternatives. The people producing these marginal improvements believe that when something is 1% better it will win (but a slightly better phone will not stop you from buying a new iPhone).

Rarely do incremental products (or content) take root. They don’t win because people’s habits are a competitive advantage in a world of infinite choices. John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard, went as far to claim that “many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.” Gourville claimed that for a company to own a market they must be at least a 9x better than what exists today (for content creators this is true for the perspectives you share).

People’s habits on the internet dominate the infinite shelf space. If you want to gain prime real estate, you have to factor this into your creation. You have to understand how to provide that 9x improvement to consumers. People’s habits are the new monopoly and you need idea inertia to earn it.

How To Provide A 9x Improvement

A few people become the source and inspiration for other’s ideas. Scientists publish a study and others summarize that information. Jeff Bezos does an interview and 100 people remix parts of it into their content. Downstream people read those summaries (more than who read the actual scientific papers). The seeds most you plant for your creativity cannot grow this way.

A 9x improvement on media comes from finding signal source, not the signal repeater. Most information you consume comes from signal repeaters. These people are important for growing the scope of information you’re aware of, but signal repeaters should only be at the top of the funnel for knowledge.

To get the truth and the core of an idea you want to go directly to the source. This is how you gain the knowledge to have a 9x improvement on what exists today. What acted as inspiration in the signal repeater? What are your role model’s role models?

It’s often said there’s nothing new to write about so how can you provide a 9x improvement? Information arbitrage. Balaji claims that information arbitrage exists where the least popular facts become monetizable truths. You’re looking for the small pieces of wisdom that give you an edge on the competition.

Josh Wolfe calls this getting to the edge of information. The best source of information arbitrage exists in the newest technical papers and the oldest books. This is where the truths most people don’t know about exist. Popularizing these truths is a 9x improvement in many consumers' lives.

Ryan Holiday made his whole career on the arbitrage of old ideas locked away in old Stoic philosopher’s writings. Brian Chesky started Airbnb after he read a bunch of articles from the 1800s on rooming houses, providing him with the idea to modernize the share economy. The most successful entrepreneurs have become an information bottleneck for high quality ideas.

Your job as an entrepreneur and creator is to dominate the infinite shelf space of the internet by taking old ideas and turning them into new habits. In the process you gain a mind monopoly that puts you above the slotting fee of endless distraction.

  1. Holiday, R. (2017) in Perennial seller: The art of making and marketing work that lasts. London: Profile Books, p. 91.
  2. Davidson, J.D. and Rees-Mogg, W. (1997) in The sovereign individual: How to survive and thrive during the collapse of the Welfare State. New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 360.
  3. Jorgenson, E. and Srinivasan, B.S. (2023) in The Anthology of Balaji: A Guide to Technology, Truth, and Building the Future. Smart Friends Publishing, pp. 103–249.
  4. Eyal, N. and Hoover, R. (2019) in Hooked how to build habit-forming products. London: Penguin Business, pp. 2–23.  

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