About cognitive surplus

I have created this blog as the online home of a review of Clay Shirky’s excellent book Here Comes Everybody which is about the power of social media – the internet based systems which are allowing people to interact with one another in ways which are changing the world.

I will be writing the review over the next couple of days (update: it’s written – click on the review tab) and will also add other material to this web site, including links to some of the websites and services which are mentioned in Shirky’s book.  In the meantime, you can find out what others think about Here Comes Everybody by clicking on the link above to visit the book’s page at Amazon.co.uk.

The technologies which underly social media are not particulalry new.  As I will point out in my review, my father – a telecommunications engineer with the UK’s Ministry of Defence – worked on packet switching systems many years before the internet (which is based on packet switching technology) and then the World Wide Web were developed.

However, the ease with which social media – which include blogs, wikis and other technologies which enable ‘many-to-many’ communication can be used has increased significantly over the last year or so.  I believe, as I think Shirky suggests, that we are only just beginning to appreciate exactly how important these technologies will be to our collective futures.

‘Cognitive Surplus’ is Shirky’s term for the untapped mental processing power that is sitting in the 6 billion plus human brains currently inhabiting this planet.  By linking our 100 billion-neuron, most-complex-objects-in-the-universe together we can use our ability to think, learn and innovate in ways which have the potential to transform our lives (either for good or bad).  I find this idea both intriguing and exciting.

Please return by the end of this week if you’d like to find out more about this intriguing book.  In the meantime I have blogged about some of the implications of what Shirky has to say at my business blog which is here and Google will, of course, provide many more references.  Shirky also has a blog which is dedicated to the book.

You can see Clay Shirky talking about what he means by ‘cognitive surplus’ here.  Watch out for his comment to a TV producer and the interesting mouseless computer concept.

Double click on the video to go to youtube.com if you would like to see the second part of the talk where you will find the relevant links.