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Publisher's Summary

For decades, technology encouraged people to squander their time and intellect as passive consumers. Today, technology has finally caught up with human potential. In Cognitive Surplus, Internet guru Clay Shirky forecasts the thrilling changes we will all enjoy as new digital technology puts our untapped resources of talent and goodwill to use at last.
Since we Americans were suburbanized and educated by the postwar boom, we've had a surfeit of intellect, energy, and time - what Shirky calls a cognitive surplus. But this abundance had little impact on the common good because television consumed the lion's share of it - and we consume TV passively, in isolation from one another. Now, for the first time, people are embracing new media that allow us to pool our efforts at vanishingly low cost.
The results of this aggregated effort range from mind expanding - reference tools like Wikipedia - to lifesaving, such as Ushahidi.com, which has allowed Kenyans to sidestep government censorship and report on acts of violence in real time. Shirky argues persuasively that this cognitive surplus, ather than being some strange new departure from normal behavior, actually returns our society to forms of collaboration that were natural to us up through the early 20th century. He also charts the vast effects that our cognitive surplus---aided by new technologies---will have on 21-century society, and how we can best exploit those effects. Shirky envisions an era of lower creative quality on average but greater innovation, an increase in transparency in all areas of society, and a dramatic rise in productivity that will transform our civilization.
The potential impact of cognitive surplus is enormous. As Shirky points out, Wikipedia was built out of roughly 1 percent of the man-hours that Americans spend watching TV every year. Wikipedia and other current products of cognitive surplus are only the iceberg's tip. Shirky shows how society and our daily lives will be improved dramatically as we learn to exploit our goodwill and free time like never before.
©2010 Clay Shirky (P)2010 Tantor
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Roy on 06-26-10

Many Helpful Insights

This is a book about social networking, media, and the internet. Essentially, it sets out to tell us the impact of the web on creativity and productivity in the aggregate - how society is changed by the media and is changing the media.

The book is really an eyeopener when Shirky puts the current electronic media in historical context. His discussions of the pre-internet era and how we interacted breaks the reader out of any illusions that the old days were better.

Well written and fine reading by Kevin Foley make this a worth while book. I am always interested in books that are outside my area of interest and knowledge. This one will inform and excite everyone - with a background or not.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Andy on 06-17-10

Stop Watching TV!

This book brings home he value we waste watching TV. Through social media we are reconnecting and producing value for society. Finally, a reason for Facebook and Twitter! I believe such a book is important as one of the first to point out a new trend that could be of paramount importance to our species. "Find the time" to do what is important to you. It is easy, stop watching TV and engage through social media.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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