Spare Cycles

Chris Anderson:

In the next issue of Wired we’ve got a great story about a woman who cyberstalked the lead singer of Linkin Park. She correctly guessed the password to his cellphone account. The rest was easy. She was a technician at a secure military facility, the Sandia National Labs. When eventually confronted, she explained that her job only took her half an hour a day. The rest was spare cycles. She used them to stalk the lead singer of Linkin Park.

Web 2.0 is such a phenomena because we’re underused elsewhere. Bored at work, bored at home. We’ve got spare cycles and they’re finally finding an outlet. Tap that and you’ve tapped an energy source that rivals anything in human history.

The Internet is perfect for people who “have too much time on their hands.” Or, for people who “don’t have any time to spare.” Two sides of the same coin. Even when people only need half an hour to do their jobs, they’re still incredibly busy, talking on the cell phone while they nearly hit people in grocery store parking lots, and agitated at waiting a full three 3 minutes for their personally brewed double tall Guatemalan mocha espresso with cinnamon and whipped creme.
The only real surprise, still to be revealed, is what, exactly it will take for people to put those spare cycles to a positive global use. Corrupt governments, erosion of civil liberties, global warming, low educational achievement scores, high infant mortality, and middle-class economic decline haven’t mattered, so it will be interesting to see what does.