cognitive surplus June 30, 2010Posted by nicholas gill in clay shirky, cognitive surplus, digital, rsa, social media, technology.
Last night I went to listen to the illustrious Clay Shirky give a free (yes, free!) talk on his new book, Cognitive Surplus, at the RSA in hot and sweaty London town. Although the sound wasn’t great, Clay’s words kept dropping out of my earshot at least, this is my simple summation of wtf Cognitive Surplus is and means.
Human beings have spare time (surplus). As the human race has grown, that means we have more spare time. Where once we just consumed things (TV especially), now a fraction of that spare time is being shifted from consumption into production and sharing (cognitive use of the surplus). And technology is helping us to turn this surplus into a force for change.
A simple illustration of this is wikipedia which Clay and his associates reckon took about 100 billion hours of time to create. All of it from Cognitive Surplus. This is but a tiny fraction of the entire consumption of US TV media in one weekend.
The cognitive surplus can be defined into three levels:
1. Communal – stuff for us all to enjoy, pretty light touch. Example here is lol cats. Funny, short attention but essentially harmless yet creating a community.
2. Public – helpful information open to participation. Example here is wikipedia.
3. Civic – where the surplus can make change happen through collective action. Example here is patients like me, a site where patients turn the tables on the traditionally and morally held view that an individual’s medical information should be held private and allows users to share their medication and effects openly with the intent to change the way the pharma and health industry operate through real, open information.
If you like the sound of this, get the book, listen to the podcast or watch the event again. (I am assuming the RSA will update their links when these become available).
You can also watch a TED talk about the same thing here: