Cognitive Surplus and Looking for the Mouse — Clay Shirkey

Just came across this speech from Clay Shirkey at the Web2.0Expo last year.  It is a great piece of thinking — entertaining, informative and thought provoking.  Makes you want to get back out on the speech circuit!

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The premise is straightforward — we have a “congnitve surplus” since industrial revolution took hold and gave most of us 5 day work weeks and evenings off from farming or hunting and gathering.

At first on industralising and moving everyone to cities, society turned to gin.  It wasn’t until libraries, local government services and parks were established that people left gin behind.

As society was given free time, we turned to sitcoms.  I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island and Desparate Housewives have consumed our free time — to the tune of 200 billion hours a year in the US alone.  Or the equivalent of 2,000 full wikipedia projects.

Today the solution has finally been offered through the internet and the “tools of participation” that allow people to pretend they are elves in World of Warcraft or write about Pluto on Wikipedia or send around LOL Cats.

Society didn’t want to drink gin and gave up drinking themselves into submission.  People today are realising they don’t want to sit passively watching tv in a similar stuppor.  They want a mouse.  So if anyone asks “where do people find the time?”  Simply point at the the TV in the corner and ask how many hours their family has watched in the past month.

We are in for significant changes as this Internet thing takes hold.

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