This popped up on TED.com this morning – a rant by Clay Shirky an expert in “technology as a force for good” (who I’ve interviewed previously and just loved his energy) . Here he rants about how our excess brain energy – we have a trillion spare brain hours up for grabs, apparently – can be used for good online. Do watch it.

His basic premise is that we have a lot of spare brain power and that we’re putting it to use in generous ways online. Wikipedia is an example. No one gets paid for the input. But it’s emerged as a resource that’s all about sharing excess information. Ditto LOLcats and ask.com, etc Ditto all the advice we all share online with each other on blogs like this one you’re reading right now.

I like his slant and it impacts on why I blog…cos sometimes I wonder why the hell I do. He’s not the only one on it. Seth Godin preaches the same. So does Daniel Pink in his book Drive. All three quote the example of the Israeli childcare pickup experiment. This study showed that when parents were simply asked to not arrive too late to pick up their kids at the end of the day, they largely complied. When the policy was changed such that parents were fined if they were late, the number of late pickups spiked. Why? When the incentive was largely altruistic, parents were engaged in the outcome – they cared about not holding the staff up from getting home to their own families on time and made an effort to be on time. When an economic contract came into play, altruism was “allowed” to be disbanded.

The point to the experiment is that it shows communal generosity is powerful. That without a contractual overlay, we are motivated to share and give and care and change society.

I agree. I struggle daily with the idea of writing this blog and tweeting. Why do I share? Am I over-sharing? Is there a point to it? The accepting place I’ve arrived at is that I need to trust that the drive to share is inherent in me. I can’t not share. It is actually a natural urge, right? It might be unpleasant at times. Annoying. Time-consuming. But if there is an urge to connect and give then we should cross that juncture that Clay refers to between doing nothing and doing something. We should connect.

There are a lot of forces out there that steer us away from sharing, like financial (dis)incentives, and voices (from various quarters) that say our resources are limited, that we should steer our energy and time to things that serve us directly.

Granted, blogging and tweeting can be a colossal waste of time, IF THE INTENTION IS NOT ABOUT SHARING. I know for me, when my heart isn’t in that authentic place, and I’m frantically “posting to maintain (readers? continuity?)”, then I am wasting everyone’s time and precious energy.

What do you reckon? Why do you share?

Have your say, leave a comment.