Seth Godin’s blog just directed me to a great posting by Clay Shirky, “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus “. I had the pleasure of seeing Clay speak at the Ideas Festival in Aspen this summer and many agreed that he was the most dynamic and interesting speaker that week.
In the post, Clay shares his calculation that Wikipedia represents 100 million hours of human thought and hypothesizes that much of this time would have otherwise been spent watching TV (Americans watch 200 billion hours of TV per year). He describes this as a social surplus. At the close of the piece, he asks how else we might deploy our social or cognitive surplus doing something more productive than watching TV.
Clay focuses on technology. That is his gig and he is hopeful that much of this surplus will find productive outlets online.
As a social entrepreneur, I see this 200 billion hour surplus and it gives me a great deal of optimism about our ability to harness human capital to improve the human condition through service. We need to make it easy for American professionals to spend an hour or two a day using their talents to invest in society.
The average American watches four hours of TV a day . If we could cut that down to three hours per day and have that other hour dedicated to service, imagine the changes we would see in society.