The book's central theme is that people are now learning how to use more constructively the free time afforded to them since the 1940s for creative acts rather than consumptive ones, particularly with the advent of online tools that allow new forms of Collaboration. It goes on to catalog the means and motives behind these new forms of cultural production, as well as key examples. While Shirky acknowledges that the activities that we use our cognitive surplus for may be frivolous (such as creating LOLcats), the trend as a whole is leading to valuable and influential new forms of human expression. He also asserts that even the most inane forms of creation and sharing are preferable to the hundreds of billions of hours spent consuming television shows (TV) in countries such as the United States. He sees compulsive television viewing as the modern equivalent of the Gin Craze, presenting both as maladaptive and self-anesthetizing responses to epochal social disruptions. The mass bingeing, stoked by nightmarish urbanization during the Industrial Revolution, ended when English society evolved "new Urban realities created by London's incredible social density, [...] turn[ing] London into [...] a modern city, one of the first." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_Surplus
Jan'2013: Venkatesh Rao sees Invalidism/Nervous Breakdown/Generalized Anxiety Disorder spreads as another sign of Cognitive Surplus and Economic Transition: Besides Middle Class Women, men in certain middle-class professions, such as clergymen, whose social and economic roles were being disrupted, were also common sufferers of the condition... When Meaningful things cannot be found, meaningless and arbitrary things become acceptable. For American women in the nineteenth century, it was a case of double-jeopardy: not only was their existing purpose taken away, they were prevented from pursuing opportunities that were opening up. Hypochondria expanded to fill expanding minds denied more interesting occupations... There is going to be a minimum amount of institutional rubble. The best we can do is ensure that there isn’t more rubble than absolutely necessary, and carefully choose which institutions to sacrifice, at every level of economic agency from individual to Congress... When an institution fails to achieve a soft landing into a new economy, its occupants must fend for themselves. This is where drugs come in... In times of peace, we are born to purpose, into middle-class scripts. In times of chaotic change, finding purpose becomes the purpose.
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