Feature

Book of the week: Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

Shirky argues that the time once spent being “passively entertained” by television or magazines is now put to better use online.

(Penguin, $25.95)

Given all the time that many people waste trolling Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, it’s hard to imagine that the Internet is actually making us smarter and more productive, said Caitlin Roper in the Los Angeles Times. Yet in his new book, Clay Shirky argues that all that time once spent being “passively entertained” by television or magazines is now put to better use online.

New media, unlike the old-fashioned kind, he says, isn’t “just something we consume, it’s something we use.” Shirky employs memorable parables to illustrate how digital media is “well-suited to serving social causes,” said Paul Barrett in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The world would be a better place, he says, if we all spent even more of our cognitive surplus more efficiently. Unfortunately, this book would have you believe that everyone online is “inoffensive and vaguely progressive.” In reality, the Web is just as useful to “al Qaida and child-porn merchants.”

Recommended

10 things you need to know today: October 28, 2021
Iran Nuclear Plant
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 28, 2021

The exaggerated threat of hypersonic missiles
Mark Milley.
Picture of Ryan CooperRyan Cooper

The exaggerated threat of hypersonic missiles

Official: ISIS in Afghanistan could be able to attack U.S. in 6 months
Aerial view of the Pentagon.
national security

Official: ISIS in Afghanistan could be able to attack U.S. in 6 months

What America can learn from Germany's pandemic response
German testing site.
'simple precautions'

What America can learn from Germany's pandemic response

Most Popular

5 toons about Bannon's contempt of Congress charge
Political Cartoon.
Feature

5 toons about Bannon's contempt of Congress charge

The 'Trump app' will be the insurrection on steroids
Donald Trump.
Picture of Damon LinkerDamon Linker

The 'Trump app' will be the insurrection on steroids

The American 'Great Resignation' by the numbers
Help wanted sign
Help Wanted

The American 'Great Resignation' by the numbers