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I am having trouble with this concept of FREE. It’s like the concept of money or the word ‘of.’ I just have a lot of trouble thinking about them after the first few seconds.

At first glance FREE seems to mean something you get without having to lay out any cash. Generally people mean things which usually have monetary value, but which are being given in some particular instance without any cash outlay. Like a FREE LUNCH, for example. But, that’s a cliche for something that appears free to the naive person, but which is known to the sophisticated one as having hidden strings attached to it. These “free” items will usually cost you more eventually than if you had paid cash for them up front. There is an abundance of this type of free item available for public consumption.

One of the obvious free lunches of this type is commercial TV. The costly part of TV is that a 30 minute show you think you want to watch for free is only 22 minutes long, and the other 8 minutes are filled up with advertising, which you presumably don’t want to watch. You are paying a price in your time, and attention when you watch TV. The advertisers know that on average you will spend enough money buying their products to pay for the production costs of the show. So you are paying three times: your time, your attention and your money (this form of money is other people’s stored time and attention which can be used for your benefit). Presumably these are the three most important things in the world to a human being. These are even more basic than water, food, and shelter which are dealt with on a daily basis, and not constantly on a instantaneous basis.

When you are with other people their free time, and attention is in part your time, and attention. To some degree this is stored in the form of friendship so it becomes an emotional kind of negotiable money — your friend is my friend kind of thing. To some extent it can be negotiated, and cashed in with personal favors. Usually this is in the form of friends listening to your thoughts — that’s a strange usage of this definition of money — with the repayment in the form of you listening to their thoughts. It is difficult to say why this is so valuable to humans because generally the conversation is not communicating information which is particularly life enhancing to the other person. The most important part is being able to talk to a listener, so that it becomes clearer just what one’s own thoughts really are. We are really listening to ourselves think, and are just using our interlocutors as warped sounding boards to get a new spin on our own turbulent thoughts. One proof that this is what is really happening is that, when you ask a person what a previous conversation was about you will generally find that they end up mostly quoting themselves, and their expressed thoughts. This is the FREE transaction that appears to be developed in human conversation.