Clay Shirkey & Cognitive Surplus

A great talk by Clay Shirkey – a really interesting speaker and a deep thinker – about how watching TV absorbs the cognitive surpluses we have as human beings. I disagree with him to some extent; most people don’t want to stay in OUTPUT mode constantly. Part of the human experience is INPUT mode; listening to music, reading a book, and yes, even watching TV. Since I spend my day writing content, sending emails, editing photos, editing videos, etc., at the end of the day my brain is a little tired from output. I find watching TV or reading a book a nice rest for my brain, and more so, creative input helps me generate creative output down the road. What about you?

  • I’ve been hearing my entire life that watching TV “rots your brain”. I can’t say my personal experience bears that out. I tend to watch a lot of shows on Discovery Channel, History Channel, and TruTV. I also like Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth of SYFY. The shows I watch stimulate my brain and make me think. I’m always learning something new and interesting, and to me that’s relaxing. But I’m weird.

    Even among non-“educational” TV, I tend to prefer shows like House that require me to think and follow along. I have to stay engaged to enjoy the story.

    I’ll have to watch the video to comment further. I agree with your final statement, that creative input helps generate creative output. I’ve heard that the best writers are insatiable readers.

  • drtolson

    Like you, Jason… I spend most of my day in ‘output’ mode — either writing proposals, etc. or speaking to clients (although that sometimes involves a good deal of listening as well). At the end of the day, I’m pretty much ‘done’ with thinking — I just need to relax with little or no stimulus at all.

    At our house, we’ve actually disconnected the cable — no TV at all. I usually turn on the radio (Jazz) for background — Monica and I sometimes deal with emails, etc. but mostly reading, crosswords, or spider solitaire. The boys are on the XBox, or on their own laptops watching videos, etc.

    Personally, I don’t miss the TV — there’s not much on these days that interests me. I get news, etc. from internet sites. And I actually enjoy the interact time with the family, as the boys come out/up after they get bored and we get to talk.