David McCandless was inspired to create a graphic image–just a pair of boxes in proportionate sizes–illustrating “cognitive surplus.” As discussed by writer Clay Shirky, this refers to “the idea of spare brainpower in the world’s collective mind just sitting there waiting, wanting, to be harnessed.” McCandless compares the 800 billion hours per year spent watching television just by American adults, to the 100 million hours, total, spent by everyone involved, to create the whole of Wikipedia.
And you know, this is always the very first thing I think when I hear the constant, perennial complaint from people that they “don’t have time”–that they don’t have time to write, don’t have time to create, don’t have time to exercise, don’t have time to cook healthy food, don’t have time to read. “How much time do you spend, every day, watching TV? Watching TV and doing nothing else?” And that’s not even considering the mind-numbing, paranoia-inducing, brain-washing, creativity-killing effects that every minute of TV has in and of itself. Just as a time-sink alone, it’s unparalleled in human history. You can do some things while you watch TV, including exercising and cooking healthy food. But if you seriously want to write–that TV’s got to be turned off, and not only while you’re actually writing.
Just think if everyone did that–and started reading, instead. Just think of it.