Economic cost of distraction

Many of the biggest tech companies (Meta, Snap, Google) make more money the more time we spend using their apps (Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube). This means the US economy appears to be doing better when we're all watching videos on our phones. Even products with a less direct relationship between attention spent and money made, like video games, still aim to be as entertaining as possible, which keeps us spending more time on them. Countries like South Korea even consider video games an important part of their upcoming economic growth.

In the short term, the economy appears to do better when adults are watching Reels instead of working and when kids are playing League of Legends instead of studying. Yet in the long term, this clearly doesn't add up. The economy can't be propped up on artifical value creation forever. It seems like human capital is being overlooked.

Lead quantity in household goods and tobacco products on the whole began to be regulated once the negative side effects were terminalized in terms of GDP dollars lost due to long-term healthcare costs. We should similarly aim to terminalize the distraction and unproductivity from addictive apps in terms of lower GDP.

Exactly how much is the economic cost of distraction?

How can we quantify this?

How might these results create a demand for better incentives and regulations around digital products and time well spent?

Ideal arrangement of major holidays

Major holidays are generally good for society because they brighten peoples' moods, create a heart-warming and collective feeling, are a wonderful excuse to spend time with friends and family, lead people to give each other gifts, inspire people to be a little happier, and give people time off from work and to rest

So why don’t societies have more major holidays? Clearly we couldn’t have one every single day—they would no longer feel special. But to maximize the benefits they bring society—maybe we should have more major holidays, or space them out in a better way.


In Japan, there is Golden Week—a week at end of April with four of Japan’s most important holidays. These holidays all fall within a week of another, so people celebrate a lot and receive much time off in a short span.

As another thought experiment, once again consider the holidays Christmas and new years. These are spaced roughly one week apart from each other. They end up feeling like one continuous holiday streak—the time between the two holidays feels liminal. What would it look like if they were spaced 2 weeks apart? 2 days apart? Which approach would maximize human welfare?


As a thought experiment, imagine that the US did not have Christmas. We would lose a whole month of celebration, good feelings, & time well spent. The US without Christmas feels absurd. We would go that whole season without a beautiful holiday to celebrate around!

Now take a step back. Imagine how many holidays we could have which we don’t have. If placed at the right time of year, there could be several more times of the year that we are just as happy as Christmas.

The question is, has the US already reached the perfect amount of holidays? Or could the US actually support more holidays without being oversaturated?


We probably don’t have more major holidays because they can’t be contrived. They arise along with traditions. The legitimacy of the holiday seems to be a by-product of the legitimacy of the thing being celebrated. This means that something momentous must happen for that particular society to create a holiday worth celebrating. And momentous things do not happen so often.

You can see this by googling “holidays happening today.” You’ll get an endless list of holidays that people have pinned to this day, but no one actually celebrates them. We can’t celebrate things every day, and in general they don’t feel that meaningful.

But this is not entirely true. For example, “White day” was actually a holiday created by candy bar companies to boost sells, and is now considered an established holiday in East Asian countries. So perhaps they can be created from the top-down.

I would bet that having more holidays is almost always a good thing because of the benefits they bring, but it’s just generally difficult for a society to have more.

Even if we can’t create or modify holidays on our own, it’s worth investigating what their ideal arrangement is. It would be fascinating to see a breakdown of each country’s holiday data (quantity, spacing, etc) and the resulting quantitative and qualitative effects (happiness, productivity, time spent with family, travel congestion, etc).