It’s Time

One upside of a down economy should be the growth of our “cognitive surplus”.  If you haven’t heard the term cognitive surplus I recommend reading Clay Shirky’s April 26, 2008 blog entry, “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus“.  I guess in short you could say it’s the free time we have to watch TV. Time we could be doing something productive, but instead we’re watching reruns of Friends.

From that blog entry:

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. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus.

So what’s the point? Great things will rise from the ashes of the economy, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t get a piece.  Open an Etsy store, write a novel, file a patent application, start a podcast, or start a blog. Pick up a new hobby, get in shape, or learn a language.

If you want to invent something here’s a video to get you started – MAKE presents: The Resistor.


MAKE presents: The Resistor from make magazine on Vimeo.

Leave a Reply