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The Cognitive Surplus of Video Games

November 18, 2016

NYU New Media professor Clay Shirky estimates that humanity as a whole has about a trillion hours of mental downtime, or cognitive surplus, on its hands each year, most of which is still spent watching TV.  I haven’t come across any figures for the cognitive surplus represented by video game usage, but I can only imagine it must be following some type of exponential or early logistic growth curve.

So far the use of video games has mainly been for entertainment, yet the potential for science and self development is largely untapped.  Sure, you can currently fold proteins and map the brain’s neural architecture with Foldit or Mozak, learn languages with Duolingo, and improve your life with Habitica, but what are these compared to World of Warcraft or Second Life?  When will scientific research become as massively connected as Facebook and as user-created as Wikipedia?  When will learning communities become as popular as Twitter and Instagram?  When will acquiring any skill for anyone on the planet be as easy as getting addicted to Angry Birds?

All this and more is coming soon, we’re working on it…

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