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Cognitive surplus .. can we be bothered?
2010-08-17: Twenty or thirty years ago I'd have been excited to read Clay Shirky's new book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. I'm definitely a glass half full kinda guy.
I would love to live by De Bono's Handbook for the Positive Revolution. Actually more than anything I want George Monbiot's Manifesto for A New World Order to happen. I even tried to follow that through and his 'answer' seemed to be "Oh, don't talk to me about actually doing it, I'm a thinker you know".
People can't be arsed, in a nutshell. If our basic needs are satisfied, there's something good on the telly, and we've got the latest iPhone we're happy. Why would we want the hassle of creating a new world order?
Partly, that's the success (and failure) of marketing. As marketers our job is to discover people's wants (probably before they themselves know of them) and provide for them, with a little bit of an aspirational osmotic pressure added. So we're kinda happy, shielded from what's going on by politicians and companies who tell us what they know we want to hear, and in some ways that's good. Who wants mayhem and unhappiness? Who really wants to leave our sofas and big tellies? By and large we like our lives.
But it's not enough. We know. We all know we're being royally screwed, we just don't quite know how to deal with it. Best to ignore it. These are huge forces of oppression at work, after all. And didn't the feminists die early because of all the stress they endured?
It's Brave New World, basically.
Wondering what to get excited about? Isn't everything basically OK? Here some unfinished lyrics by The Edger, a rapper in Scarborough:


A man who claims hes hard all his life
Then goes home beats the shit out his wife
The law is there to protect us all
but everyone they put behind bars is poor
...Prison works we lock 'em up like a trend
only 96% will then re-offend
the recession working people get homelessness
Those that caused give themselves bonuses
A soldier turning a family of 5 to zero
But when he's injured comes home a hero
Anarchists demanding more choices for their brain
and demonstrate their freedom by dressing all the same
ya can't be a priest if you sleep with men
but you can stay a priest if they are under ten
beautiful intelligent creative people
who make their brain insane in their vain shoving a needle......making them evil
Have a read of Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back and realise that making friends, connecting with others, is a revolutionary act.
How does this fit with me being a marketer? I don't see any difference between helping a friend move his furniture and marketing. Both are about perceiving a need and organising yourself to help solve it. I'm pro small businesses. People who serve real needs. For me marketing is the most powerful force for good because it can take every one of those problems above and organise to provide a solution. Your nearest muttlynational burger chain isn't going to do that. Marketing isn't just for business. Money is about money. Marketing is about building a better world. I see a lot of needs. We're not done here yet.

By John Allsopp
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