Turns out the industrial revolution produced the “gin cart” as a coping technology for the slaving factory masses. Gin carts filled the street of London, numbing the dehumanizing pain of mindless factory work into submission. The 1800’s lacquered workforce lubricated the march of industry. But it also created what we call the institutions of industrialized society; public education, museums, libraries, etc. When you have all those people urbanized, the social surplus had to eventually extend beyond inebriation into other outlets.
As the efficiency of industrialized society produced more free time, the gin cart became television. This new lubricant oiled things into the late 20th century. Television, and I would argue, commutes are now less and less cognitive heat-sinks as we make our way into the 21 Century. Cognitive surplus is finding a new outlet. Wikipedia, for instance, has taken 100 million hours to produce. Where did that time and attention come from? Former TV viewer’s cognitive kinesthetics.
We are at the beginning of a new age of sorting through the complex issues surrounding this new cognitive surplus. Yes, surfing the net can be a time sucker like TV, yet it is not passive. It is interactive. It is social. All these blogs! All these viral videos! All these podcasts! All these conversations. The microeconomics and the peer to peer bartering. It all adds up to a confluence of incredible cognition. The exodus from TV generates the time to create a wikipedia, the social media explosion, and hopefully a more involved citizenry.
The link above points out that 1 Trillion hours of TV is still paralyzing the world population yearly. So we are at the beginning of something big. Think about shutting off your TV and using your own mental superfluity to do something remarkable. Something engaging! Your media channel may be one of the first gathering places as the masses start passing up the gin cart.