Clay Shirky:
"So 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."
Am definitely looking forward to reading his new book.


  1. That seems like a fairly sensationalist sentiment on Shirky's part.

    Think about this: some dude thought for a few of those hundred million hours about rotating crops. Henceforth, it didn't take a lot of thought and innovation to put his ideas into action, just physical labor.

    Or another one: Henry Ford comes up with the assembly line, factory workers all around the globe labor for generations to come.

    For every invention, experiment, or thesis, there's an exponentially greater proportion of time spent actualizing on those ideas. So, shave off a tiny percentage of all that labor-time and we as a species probably deserve some time in front of the tube. Or a play. Or a concert. Or whatever our chosen form of common entertainment is at the time.

    It's a liberal dream that we can all be knowledge workers, but it doesn't bear out historically or economically. Someone has to do the dirty work, and that someone usually tends to be more like everyone.

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