Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators

Author: Clay Shirky
This Month Hacker News 1


by specialist   2021-10-14
Very interesting review. Added Suzman's "Work: A Deep History:" to my reading list. I'll reread review more closely in a bit.

The notion of surplus is very interesting. I have no opinions, no hot takes. Just questions.

The very first facet I'd like explained is the observation that a surplus in one area creates a deficit elsewhere. I'm sure both author and reviewer touch on this.

Reviewer also makes a connection to Graeber's Bullshit Jobs thesis, how finance begets bureaucracy. Now I want to know if there's some kind of connection between surplus, inequity, finance, and bureaucracy. Perhaps repelling appeals to fairness, defending the hierarchy, what we now call Public Relations, begets more "justification work". (In contrast to productive work and caring work.)

This quote popped out:

"Suzman essentially argues that nature has programmed us, just as it has every other creature, to deal with surpluses of energy by working those surpluses out of our systems. With lots of available energy but little to do, we make work to release the tensions building up inside of us."

This has to be a nod towards Jeremy England's work, right?

"A New Physics Theory of Life"

A physicist has proposed the provocative idea that life exists because the law of increasing entropy drives matter to acquire life-like physical properties It's been too long, so I'll have to actually reread.


Shirky's observation about widespread drunkenness in the 1700s really stuck with me. All that extra gin and idle labor with nothing to do. Of course everyone got drunk. Eventually, new demand for labor, the industrial revolution, absorbed all that supply. Problem solved. Begetting new problems, of course.

At the time, I saw the similarity between gin and online gaming. Today it'd be doom scrolling.

Any way. Great review. Exciting ideas. Will definitely lean into this topic.