Tim HwangApr 14, 2022
Subprime Attention Crisis
Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet
FSG Originals 2020
In Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet (FSG Originals, 2020), Tim Hwang investigates the way big tech financializes attention. In the process, he shows us how digital advertising--the beating heart of the internet--is at risk of collapsing, and that its potential demise bears an uncanny resemblance to the housing crisis of 2008.
From the unreliability of advertising numbers and the unregulated automation of advertising bidding wars to the simple fact that online ads mostly fail to work, Hwang demonstrates that while consumers' attention has never been more prized, the true value of that attention itself--much like subprime mortgages--is wildly misrepresented. And if online advertising goes belly-up, the internet--and its free services--will suddenly be accessible only to those who can afford it.
Tim Hwang is a writer, researcher, and currently the general counsel for Substack. He is the former director of the Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative and previously served as the global public policy lead for artificial intelligence and machine learning at Google.
Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network (Twitter: @caleb_zakarin).