A lot of Shirky’s formulations are spot on, but I’ve always felt uneasy about the cognitive surplus idea. It’s not just, as Carr points out in the linked article, that there’s not much evidence that the Wikipedia hours are coming out of a surplus, but it’s the view of human endeavor as a noncount noun, an undifferentiated quantity like the sugar production of a country, or the amount of sunlight hitting Guam.
It also reminds me a bit of Office Space, the main characters firmly convinced they can get rich by shaving off rounding errors.
This isn’t to say there isn’t some truth to it. I just don’t know that surplus is the right frame. I feel that to a large extent the people that always had hobbies now have hobbies that can have a worldwide impact. But that’s about taking time away from building canoes to update the Wikipedia article on building canoes. It has nothing to do with Seinfeld reruns.