Clay Shirky on Lolcats and the Cognitive Surplus

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Video: Clay Shirky: Are Lolcats a Sign of Human Progress?


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"Clay Shirky explains how widespread education coupled with 21st-century technology has enabled what he terms "cognitive surplus," or the potential for large and cumulative creative endeavors. He argues that while it is responsible for inanity like Lolcats, "doing something is different from doing nothing."

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How you decide to respond is what separates the leaders from the left behind. Today's smartest executives know that disruption is constant and inevitable. They've learned to absorb the shockwave that change brings, and can use that energy to transform their companies and their careers.

At the second WIRED Business Conference, presented in partnership with MDC Partners, you'll hear from industry leaders on how to respond to change, and how to use it to your advantage. Through one-on-one conversations between speakers and Wired editors and interaction with the speakers, you'll see how disruption is transforming the way smart organizations make decisions, keeping them on a steady path to growth. - WIRED

Clay Shirky lectures, writes and consults on the social and economic effects of the Internet. His consulting practice is focused on the rise of decentralized technologies such as peer-to-peer, Web services, and wireless networks -- alternatives to the wired client/server infrastructure that characterizes the Web. At NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program he teaches how networks shape culture and vice-versa. In one course, Shirky examines the cues we use to understand group dynamics in online spaces and how social software may be redesigned to better reflect the emergent properties of groups.

Shirky has written extensively about the Internet since 1996, regularly appearing in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and WIRED. His books include Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. The Library of Congress and the BBC are among his clients."

More Information

"To view more highlights from the Wired Business Conference 2010 series, visit

Book: Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. Clay Shirky