“What is power?” I asked my friends. “Between people, politically speaking?”
“Divorce yourselves from dictionary. Use your own words,” I exhorted, mulling over my own embryonic conception of power:
The capacity to develop and maintain a reputation as provider of something desired.
Capacity. Reputation. Provide. Desire.
In asking I assessed my own power. Would anyone respond? Would anyone give a shit about the “secret knowledge” my question implied? Yes, an intrigued few acted. Something about my ideas or words is apparently attractive enough that a few people willingly trade small bits of attention to read my thoughts and reply. I consume their time in exchange for fleeting Sally Field release of dopamine. “You like me. You REALLY like me!” I tickle their neurons, they tickle mine.
And we are spent.
They, a few seconds closer to death, opportunity cost sunk; me, coming down from an approval high, jonesing for the next hit. Is that power? Great. I have the power to attract six people’s interest in a question about power. What can I do with it? That plus $2.47 buys me a Venti coffee at Starbucks. Maybe someone will give me a cup of coffee for my thoughts? That would be something. You can’t eat dopamine.
The most distilled response to my question was this, from Bruce Springsteen:
“Power is the capacity to create movement.”
That, folks, is gold. An algorithm. Pure. Essential. Distilled. Universally pluggable into every question of power, even non-human, non-political. It encapsulates and simplifies my initial stab at the definition. It’s even more beautiful because it came from Bruce Springsteen. Not that Bruce. Bruce S. Springsteen. But did you feel that? For the time you thought that this idea came from “The Boss” you ascribed more value/power to the statement. Why does Bruce “The Boss” have more power than Bruce S.?
I’ll tell you in the next installment.
That’s what power is. The capacity to create movement.
Do I have any more now? Did I expand my reputation as keeper of things desired? Does my audience grow? Are they willing to give me more than a dopamine rush? I guess that depends if I delivered the goods, sufficiently well enough that some return, or word spreads and others are attracted to “attend” to some future revelation. We’ll see if I can create movement — if more people pay attention next time.
“Pay Attention.” What a curious phrase. As if attention had value. As if attention is something others seek to extract from you — a power source that they’ll aggregate and re-sell to others who profit from aggregated attention. Funny world. Who’d want to buy aggregated attention? That’s wacky!
Next: Aggregating power over time. Abstracting “power” to make it universal and portable. Profit – receiving more attention than you’re paying.
Price: $5. I’ll provide a link to pay, then all will be revealed. Believe me.