Cognitive Heatsinks

I finally got around to watching this Clay Shirky talk I had added to Pocket a few months ago (was something to walk around the living room to while calming a fussy baby). 

It’s a short and good watch, but a high level summary is that there is an enormous amount of cognitive energy that we have historically burnt off in the form of passive entertainment (or drinking). He foresaw a future where even a small fraction of that energy could be harnessed for great value; Wikipedia being the most successful version of this. 

The talk is ten years old though, so it’s interesting to look back and see where we went.

It seems like he missed the ways in which participatory systems would themselves be ‘cognitive heatsinks’. Social media, while it has some aspects that are valuable, seem balanced by negative outcomes that we didn’t see from sitcoms. 

Still great talk, and inspiring enough that I bothered to write this very post.