There are trillion hours of free time available in the world, according to Clay Shirky in his TED talk on How cognitive surplus will change the world, and then we hear people asking “Where the time goes?”, “How time flies?” after a realization of time passing without accomplishing anything. We’ve also heard a phrase like “What a waste of talent!” referring to talented people ‘doing nothing’. In as much as there are people wasting their time and skills, there are those who are willing to volunteer them as well.
In his talk, Shirky discussed cognitive surplus. It refers to the availability of free time and talents that is up for grabs around the world, to be used in a large project potentially for the benefit of the society. Through the cognitive surplus, Shirky explained how people’s creativity and generosity to create and share flow to communal or civic value. The latter is a value created by participants not only to make life better for themselves but for everyone in the society.
Shirky’s definition of cognitive surplus and its positive effect on the world reminds me of the farmer in Indonesia who created a DIY hydro power electricity for his community. According to Channel NewsAsia, his creation began with a vision to provide a better life for his village.
Rasid has no degree except a knowledge of basic principles of mechanical engineering he learned in high school. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop him and his friends from constructing the watermill and micro hydro power plants. Successfully, the inventions now supply 600 homes with inexpensive electricity.
The 48-year old father is celebrated in his village. He is the reason why the community now is lit, residents are able to run basic appliances in their homes and students’ life made easier. Payment for his service, $5 a month, is not a problem as he accepts payment by produce or even gives it for free.
Rasid’s contribution to a better society is surely among the countless inputs that the world has seen. If only people collectively put their free time and mind to use, indeed this world will be a better place for everyone.