Thoughts on Clay Shirky’s concept of “Cognitive surplus”

I recently came across various reviews and marketing for Clay Shirky’s new book ‘Cognitive surplus‘.  While deceptively simple, I love the “concept” of ‘Cognitive surplus’ – in two words it sums up intellectual and creative potential, and the question as to what we do with that.

One of the key points of Clay’s argument is the disparity between time spent watching television (‘consuming’) and time spent ‘creating’ / ‘contributing’, and the consequent waste of our intellectual and creative potential during this time (he compares the “200 billion hours spent by Americans annually watching TV“, and the “100 million hours so far invested in creating Wikipedia“).

David McCandle has a prepared a brilliant, simple visualization of this on his excellent website ‘Information is beautiful’ (which I see as a sort of artistic version of my thoughts on ‘Killer charts’, which I blogged about a while ago).

It was that graphic, sent to me in a link in an email from a friend, that prompted me into this post, and the following thoughts.

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