Collaboration and creativity use up the social surplus

Organised, industrial society creates left-over time for its citizens — and that time has to be used up somehow. At first it was with gin. Then TV. Now it’s just beginning to be with mass creation and collaboration.

Thanks to Anne Sophie Leens for the pointer. And “wow” to Clay Shirky for such a great post. I hope the book is just as good.

I have to say – it really shifted my mindset.

…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. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

See? Read the whole thing…

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