Graphic Evidence of What We Value Most

Like it or not, your real priority, my real priority, our society’s real priority shows up not in what we say but in how we spend our resources, including, of course, how we spend our time. Time is the scarcest resource.

Author David McCandless at Information is Beautiful called it Cognitive Surplus Visualized in honor of Clay Shirky’s Ted Talk.  I don’t love the phrase “cognitive surplus,” but I do get the point. And this chart speaks for itself. Well done.

Business Chart

When I see those two boxes, I can’t help thinking how huge the effort of Wikipedia; how much is there, information on how many different topics, how many people it took, and how many hours it took. Then I compare it to the big box next to it.


  • Iris says:

    So simple, yet so terrifying! If we all stopped watching TV, imagine how much we could create.

  • Elia Freedman says:

    With all due respect I think this is an apples to oranges comparison. Shouldn’t it be number of hours spent consuming wikipedia content compared to how much time spent consuming television? Or how much time spent creating television content compared to wikipedia content? After all not all creators are consumers and vice-a-versa.

    By the way, it was really nice of Sabrina to open up PAS’s offices earlier this week for a colleague and me to meet. He is coming from Sunriver and I am coming from Portland. Eugene is a perfect mid-point. What a great company and wonderful people. You should be proud. And I hope to meet you the next time we are in town!

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Elia. Your apples and oranges point is intriguing, but I think the artist’s point was comparing time wasted in consumption to time not wasted, but rather spent creating a body or work that others can use. In his Ted talk, which inspired the artist, Clay Shirky was talking about cognitive surplus, which is not my favorite buzzword but relates to how much creative work we can do even if we just use a fraction of what we waste. And thanks for the note about Sabrina too, I am proud.

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