What can you do with your “cognitive surplus”?

I’m reading a fascinating book right now: Abundance — The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. It is easy to fall into the trap of doom and gloom that we are force-fed by mainstream media, especially if you are still watching TV for your daily programming. I just started the book and I have to say they have made some pretty compelling arguments so far. Obviously a full on book review would be premature at this point, but I was so intrigued with this concept that I simply must share it right now.

They present NYU professor Clay Shirky’s concept of “cognitive surplus”, which he defines as “the ability of the world’s population to volunteer and to contribute and collaborate on large, sometimes global projects.”

Here is the part that blew my mind:

“Wikipedia took one hundred million hours of volunteer time to create. How do we measure this relative to other uses of time? Well, TV watching, which is the largest use of time, takes two hundred billion hours every year – in the US along. To put this in perspective, we spend a Wikipedia with of time every weekend in the US watching advertisements alone. If were were to forgo our television for just one year, the world would have over a trillion hours of cognitive surplus to commit to share projects.”

— Clay Shirky

Holy cannoli!

Diamandis and Kotler follow up with this statement: “Imagine what we could do for the world’s grand challenges with a trillion hours of focused attention.”

In addition to this great read (Abundance by Diamonds and Kotler), here are a couple more resources: this TED talk by Shirky and this book Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators also by Shirky. I have not yet watched or read those but they are now on my list.

Now go forth and imagine. If you’re feeling really frisky, go forth and do something!

And then, please tell me: What would you do? How would you help to improve the world? What did you do? How did you contribute to making the world a better place?

About Stephanie

I am a mother and a wife, lady scientist, gardener, fabulous cook, foodie, world traveler, and aspiring polymath. I like to ignore stereotypes, challenge the status quo and encourage independent thought.
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