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  • Cognitive Surplus

  • Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
  • By: Clay Shirky
  • Narrated by: Kevin Foley
  • Length: 6 hrs and 50 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (231 ratings)

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Cognitive Surplus

By: Clay Shirky
Narrated by: Kevin Foley
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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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True Tales of a Bold New World

By now I'm familiar with the impact of social media on our lives. But not everyone who uses it "gets" it. Too many people tack "social media" onto their marketing plans and every interaction is a sales pitch. Clay Shirkey helps us understand the heartbeat of our growing interconnectedness. His book is most compelling when he reviews the research from behavioral economics -- what are our intrinsic motivators? At our most creative and generous online, we are driven by our love of being both autonomous and competent.

Overall, the book encourages us to get involved, to pitch in -- whether it's relaxing games with friends or a project to unite folks for a great cause. Where do we find the time? By turning off the TV, of course.

The reader was fine -- a real pro.

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