LinkLog: Cognitive Surplus?

This post triggers a whole bunch of thoughts and ideas. Clay Shirky talks about Social Surplus and Cognitive Surplus. Some nuggets:

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought.

The way you explore complex ecosystems is you just try lots and lots and lots of things, and you hope that everybody who fails fails informatively…

The normal case of social software is still failure; most of these experiments don’t pan out. But the ones that do are quite incredible…

People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.

It’s [cognitive surplus] so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let’s say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That’s about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 10,000 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

I think that’s going to be a big deal. Don’t you?

There are all kinds of interesting and useful projects cropping up all over the web. They promote the architecture of participation. Some of them are physical meets, some of them are shared col laboratories mostly powered by wikis and many of them promote sharing. I have my own experiments in this space – one on teaching and learning and another in setting up an incremental innovation lab. I will report my progress in a few months.

2 thoughts on “LinkLog: Cognitive Surplus?

  1. I believe that’s “Clay Shirky” NOT “Carl Shirky”!

    BTW Clay’s talk makes you think about the squandering of the collective cognitive surplus. But if it isn’t TV soaking it up would it be something else. He claimed gin was the soak of choice in the 19th century.

  2. John,
    Thanks. I corrected the mistake. It is a fascinating concept. We do need certain amount of other activities to provide some level of entertainment. But awareness of spending all the surplus in other activities may help us seek better avenues at least part of the time.

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