Two hundred billion hours and nothing on

a great essay/speech on cognitive surplus, social surplus, social computing, and the potential for being on the cusp of something really big.

let me try to boil it down to a few bullets:

  • technology and productivity has given society a tremendous amount of leisure time
  • the sitcom has pacified us for a few generations
  • television watching in the US alone consumes 200 billion hours every year
  • … roughly one trillion hours for Internet-connected persons around the globe
  • as voluminous as it is, Wikipedia represents about 100 million hours of effort (not per year, but in total)
  • if the US redirected it’s efforts from TV, we could create 2,000 Wikipedia equivalents every year
  • … and the world population could do much, much more

thankfully, this isn’t really a call to stop watching TV — the author doesn’t think we’ll stop watching mindless episodes of Scrubs, we’ll probably just do it less. (don’t ask how many syndicated repeats I  currently have Tivo’d, or why.)

And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we’re talking about. It’s 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 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

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

if nothing else, read it for the anecdote about the mouse; I expect to hear the same thing out of J any day now: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

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