While watching a TED video the other day that was sent along by a friend where author Clay Shirky was speaking about the concept of the “cognitive surplus” which exists today. However what hit me square between the eyes was the fact that we as a “people” have achieved 1 trillion, yes that was trillion with a “T” hours of discretionary time per year! If this were money you could have spent a million dollars per since the birth of Jesus and you still after all that will not have reach a trillion!
What an amazing realization this was, as on a global basis one has to assume this is an “average” and with the majority of the world at or below the poverty line, to have this amount of time is utterly astounding to me.
Now I’m sure all you stat-o-philes out there could argue this till the cows come home as when I heard it, my first reaction was to pull out a pen and do some back of the napkin math. However I sat my pen down, as it became clear the intent here was not the value to argue or debate this number. As if it’s a little over or under, so be it because at that size moderate error is negligible at best and that wasn’t the point.
The point which interests me is the fact that “society” has created the ability to provide “societal man” with the effluence needed to focus on other things rather than the basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s Ladder such as finding food and shelter. However to experience time away from these basic pursuits in an unencumbered fashion, is a luxury which we as a “race” as opposed to nation states have never seen before at both this breadth and depth. With this we as a “global race” now have the ability which was not available to our great grandparents and some cases even “parents” to make a difference.
One of the interesting aspects of this is how did we get here I ask myself. If life is a zero sum game, which it is as it’s a “closed loop system” then something must give for someone to get. What was it that got us here, what will be the repercussions of the exchange to receive such a large base of seemingly idle time as we all know there isn’t a free lunch?
Also, will this discretionary time go the way of middle class earnings? Does this simply represent the creation of a short term imbalance in equilibrium which will once again seek its own level? Mr. Shirky has left me with more questions than answers as Newton so aptly explained, for every “action” there is an equal and opposite “reaction”. So is this available “time” the “action” or the “reaction”?
Either way we need to clearly recognize that in perspective, society has built a level of affluentcy never before seen and in an astoundingly short period of time. This in turn has me once again pondering Gordon Moore’s prophecies, or should one say “legacy”…