A Trillion Hours, What Are We Doing with Them?

by Ian

in Motivation, Technology

Today while listening to the BBC Digital Planet interview with Clay Shirky I realised something that is about what we are doing here.

Clay Shirky in his book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age states that there is globally one trillion hours of spare time per year that in the past was used in other, often passive systems, like watching television and when we have the better systems that are now evolving we will use those spare hours for much more intrinsic and social uses. No longer will we only sit and suck on the nipple of the old media, filling time or engage in small scale tasks within only our local communities but we will engage in global, large scale systems like Wikipedia and Galaxy Zoo.  Not because we have to, but because we want to for the good that participating does for us.  In the past it was always difficult to bridge the gap between doing nothing and doing something.  Now we can all do something and it can be something on a massive global scale even if our part is only minuscule.

We have the tools that enable people to participate in activities that once belonged to those on the passionate frontier.  Once to be a documentary film maker you had to have huge resources of dedication to deal with the cost, technology and distribution.  The entry level has been lowered for all to participate through the technology.  All that is still needed is the great idea.

Clay mentions that as with the printing press many unexpected things evolved for good that could never have been envisioned when the press was first developed.  So it is with the Internet and digital technologies.  There will be things that we cannot imagine yet that will come from it that will be of great benefit for everyone.

Here is Clays TED talk on the subject.

I’ve been saying that it confounds me that the idea of recording Life Stories isn’t something that has been taken up by thousands of people.  On reflection I’ve realised that it’s because the technology has only in recent years evolved to the stage where it’s possible for the average person to be able to record someone.  The recorders have only just become available along with the editing and distribution systems that mean that an enjoyable listening experience can be shared around the world.

Tape recorders just didn’t cut the mustard in use or quality for the average person and digital recorders have only just come down in price to be accessible for the average person.  Editing audio used to involve physically cutting and joining magnetic tape only to be replaced by computer based systems that were more akin to flying the Space Shuttle in complexity.  Now with editing systems like Audacity and GarageBand it all makes sense for everyone.

Distribution systems used to involve physically handing a film or tape to someone and then have a system that could play back the content.  Now all the sharing can be done online with mechanisms that work in the browser window like this one that you are using now.  No special equipment required.  And we can send it far around the world at the speed of your Internet connection to almost anyone.

With the trillion hours that are at our disposal we have a chance to do many things, form communities of interest on any subject, resolve problems that plague others or as we are doing here, capture Life Stories and share them with the world.

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