Do we really have a cognitive surplus?

Clay Shirky’s new book puts forward the view that now that we’re watching less and less television (are we really?), we are enjoying excess cognitive capabilities–and that that surplus is being deployed on the Net. Sort of the opposite notion from Nicholas Carr’s worry that Google is making us stupid.

What if they are both right? Are we moving from the mindlessness of Gilligan’s Island to the vapidness of Googling ourselves?

My own sense is that Shirky greatly underestimates individual differences in cognitive capabilities. A few humans may always have a great cognitive surplus. And many folks may not– not withstanding how many hours they spend watching TV.