Brent Eubanks (a_steep_hill) wrote,

Cognitive Surplus

This is a kind of neat article that posits that post-WWII western society has been subject to an enormous "cognitive surplus" as a result of all the labor saving innovations that have come about in the last half century, that we've mostly spent it watching TV, and that this surplus has just recently started to become available for other projects. He points out that the total time investment in building Wikipedia (~100 million man hours) is 0.05% of the United State's TV watching budget, and asks what will happen as more of that currently lost time is directed to other purposes.

I think the essay makes an interesting point, and I think that there is some validity to it. On the other hand, the author implies that time spent watching TV can (and ultimately will) be turned to other purposes, and I don't necessarily think that this is so. Modern life leaves the average person with a lot of free time, but it also imposes a great deal of stress, much of it highly artificial and hard for us monkeys to deal with. It's one thing to come home at the end of a long day and flip on the TV. It's quite another to come home and do something useful. What I'm saying is that it is true, that modern humans have potentially quite a lot of unscheduled time. But that that surplus time does not necessarily equate to a surplus of cognitive capability or motivation.
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