The general formulation, then, is as follows: (a) massive societal upheaval produces social surplus; (b) lacking alternatives, we then blow off said surplus in useless dissipation (gin, TV); (c) eventually institutions and/or technology evolve to put the surplus to more productive use; (d) world becomes better place. To illustrate, Shirky calculates that Wikipedia to date has consumed 100 million hours of effort, which seems impressive until you consider that, in the U.S. alone, we spend 200 billion hours every year watching television. If we harnessed those squandered resources, Shirky observes (the common expression is "unused cycles"), we could produce the equivalent of 2,000 Wikipedias per year — and if that doesn't fill you with guilt, I don't know what will.
- Online collaborations have accomplished amazing things.
- Crowds of mopes (and let's be frank, muchachos — this means you and me) are collectively smarter than isolated geniuses, since we all have random quanta of information that no single individual possesses.
- If you were to add up the thoughts of everybody in the world, the dimwitted parts would cancel out and what's left would be complete global knowledge.
- We all have computers (well, one billion of us do) plus lots of free time, provided we don't blow it on Desperate Housewives and Jersey Shore.