There’s been a lot of talk of “cognitive surplus” of late. I found the numbers in this piece by Clay Shirky particularly eye-opening:
So how big is that surplus? 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. … 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.
One new Wikipedia-level achievement each weekend if we rechannel our ad-watching time. And that’s just the United States, mind you.
If Marx had lived 100 years later, I have to assume he would have been compelled to have coined, instead, that “television is the opiate of the masses”.