What is the value of a single thought?

Have you about thought about this:

The mind is never blank – if it were, how would you know? It’s impossible to think about ‘nothing’. You always have thoughts in your head and your thoughts are the single one item you have total control over. There is nothing else in this world that you can influence completely except your thoughts. So, of your thoughts are all you really own, have you ever tried putting a dollar value on them? I mean, since your thoughts are the only real currency that exists, do you know much of single thought of yours is worth?

PS: The irony of this post is that it will be simply ignored just how the vast majority of my posts over the past few years (you won’t bother hitting that little ‘like button’ to indicate that you’ve at least acknowledged the existence of it) and yet I’m convinced that thoughts have a value.


Well, Torsten I read it and liked it. And it seems a very interesting idea. Freedom to think is a priceless asset. It’s the antidote to brainwashing and is brilliantly explored in Orwell’s 1984 where the proles as he calls them reach that mindless state.
Coming down to basics I am reminded of an idiom - Penny for them? used as a question when you want to know what someone is thinking. The full expression is - Penny for your thoughts? Sometimes this is reduced simply to - Penny? The full expression comes from Sir Thomas More, Chancellor to Henry V111, who had his head cut off for disagreeing over the King’s wish for a divorce.


I guess the mind may not be blank but feel like it is; like when one is very relaxed and is unaware of one’s thoughts and you ask them ‘What were you thinking?’ and the say ‘Nothing at all’ (and they actually mean it). Those I guess are the so called unconcious thoughts.

Now about one having total control over one’s thoughts, I don’t think that’s really true. There are so many people going to shrinks all the time for not being able to control what they think and eventually what they do…

As for putting a dollar value on one’s thoughts that would mean there should first be one willing to buy. So it depends on how valued your thoughts are to people. Well… some seamingly have made a lot of money on their thoughts, like Kim Kardashian; others, like Einstein, not so much…

Anyway, as in the previous reply, a penny for one’s thoughts is a commonly set price but I think a thought for a thought would be fairer …


Can’t closing eyes and thinking of nothing make the mind blank, Torsten? Personally, I fall asleep when my mind is blank. Doesn’t it sound incredible?


The problem is that in most cases you can’t trade your thoughts for money directly. Based on ‘the law of increasing returns’ the reward you get for your thoughts and their resulting deeds is several times removed from the initial action. So, we normally don’t get money for our thoughts immediately but are usually paid in other currencies first. One of those other currencies is attention, hence the expression ‘pay attention’. The single most driving force behind most human activity is not money itself but ‘a feeling of importance’ or power. Money itself is worth nothing. And then there are people who don’t want to ‘get paid’ anything for sharing their knowledge, expertise and ideas. Those people see their activities as a means to satisfy those needs Maslow defines as the level of ‘self-actualization’.


Hi Torsten,

Thoughts do have a value, but in how far will other people value them? It is ofcourse true what Alan says, namely the freedom to think and I might also add the freedom of speech are priceless. Nowadays, I sometimes get the impression that people’s thoughts are censured when they share them with others, when they accept a penny for their thoughts, as it were. To give you an example: I have a Moroccan friend. I sent him a friend request on my facebook account and he accepted it. As soon as some of my other ‘friends’ noticed that his photo was among theirs, they defriended me. Can you believe that? They did not even bother to try and accept him or ask how I got to know him. Now, I’ll tell you how. We studied together. He was always friendly to me and had absolutely no problem accepting my sexual orientation. We had lots of fun.When we graduated we lost touch, because we both went separate ways. I missed him and now we have contact again.
The fact that some of my ‘friends’ defriended me, and it is without doubt for my having a Moroccan friend, is trying to censure, as it were, that freedom of thought and freedom of speech. So, I thought: ‘Hey Big Brother is watching me’. He didn’t like my friend because of his ethnic origin and now I’m getting punished.


Thank you Vivianna. :slightly_smiling_face:


‘pay attention’, ‘law of increasing returns’, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: a few more nuggets of knowledge in this reply. :smiley:

Indeed there are people who share their knowledge for nothing or for very little comparatively and their contribution (in accordance with the law of increasing returns) is tremendously appreciated and happily reciprocated (even by expressing some objections?).

I would just have to argue that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shouldn’t be taken as an absolute because people’s diversity often overrides it (though it may hold true to the largest extend).

As for the attention, as a specific return, I think it can be translated differently by different people. To one it may be acknowledgement of one’s importance, a feeling of power… ; to another it may simply be a required ingredient for one’s search for information or knowledge to be satisfied. (e.g. get the attention required so one’s questions are answered)
As an American girl was saying on the news the other day:
‘Am I afraid of getting the corona virus? Yes…! But, then, could you even imagine of all the attention I would get?’

[Still maybe some time you could write about the cases you can actually trade your thoughts for money -‘monetizing on your thoughts’, I think you’ve called it once and again in some posts there. Just curious… :thinking:]


There is always an exchange when people share their knowledge and ideas, we never do anything “for free”. Many people find it very satisfying when they help others gain new knowledge, because they know that this in turn creates new value for society as a whole. No matter how different our views and beliefs may be, we still belong to the same species and share the same planet, so we have to find a way to live together.

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This question has so many angles.

“Penny for your thoughts” has been mentioned by multiple people. I never imagine this question being asked of someone who appears to be doing advanced math in their head. It’s used when a person appears to be deeply contemplative, or possibly depressed.

The word thought seems pretty straight forward. But what is thought really? Is a deep state of meditation thought? In some forms of meditation, you are doing nothing more than observing and being aware of your surroundings. You are not really thinking about the things you sense around you. You observe them, take note of them, and maybe file them away. Mostly it’s pure awareness and observation.

When you are totally immersed in a performance, like a movie, play, or sports, can you simply watch and listen without thinking or analyzing what you are observing?

I remember as a child, laying on my back in the grass, on a warm summer day, just watching the puffy clouds floating by. It was highly contemplative. I’m sure I thought about something, but it was more a free flow of “something” that might be described as thought, but it was not a rigid analytical type of thought.

So what is the value? That’s like asking what is the value of life. Rather than putting it in terms of thought, I usually put it in terms of time. Time is the most valuable thing we have in life. Time is our most valuable currency. Once we spend that currency we can never get it back.

Literally everything we do in life is spending the currency called time. We might not know how rich we are in this currency called time, but we know it’s finite. We can’t have thoughts without spending that currency. We can’t do activities without spending that currency. Then when it’s gone it’s gone. How can you put a value on that?

Of course I could mention that I made a living for many years creating intellectual property. I’d venture to say that the number of others who get paid for creating IP is in the hundreds of millions. I got paid to think, and to record the results of those thought in a way that can be used by others.

So how much were those thoughts worth? For some people, it’s pure money. Some people don’t care what they do, as long as it pays well. I need to like what I do, and like the environment that I work in. Because the payoff is not just money. Enjoyment has value. My coworkers have value. Most importantly, I am spending the currency of time, which has the most value of all.

I have to trade the one currency for the others. I have to decide if an acceptable balance is being met. I spend the currency of time, and in return receive money, enjoyment, friendship, satisfaction of a good challenge, satisfaction of learning things and experiencing the cool things life has to offer.

Thoughts – time – life. They are all part of the same thing. When you spend one, you spend the others.

Value? I don’t know. I only know that the tradeoff is worth it. It’s worth continuing.