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Humanity wasted 14,526 years watching Gangnam Style (wastedhumanity.com)
13 points by gillyb on Nov 3, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 41 comments

It's only "wasted" if you got no value out of it. If you thought it was entertaining (which, presumably people who watched it many times did) then it's no more of a waste than time spent listening to The Beatles or Beethoven, relative merits aside.

I hate the arrogance and pretence of this site as a concept. I'm far more productive than pretty much anyone I know, but I also need downtime to recharge.

It's not about productivity. Humanity could spend these 14,526 years listening to J.S. Bach, a genius whose talent found no match in the human history and yet dedicated as much as humanly possible of his life to music.

I love Bach; love, love, love Bach. Both of Gould's recordings of Goldberg variations, plus the Kimiko Ishizaka recording from the Open Goldberg Variations project (early backer).

That said, Gagnam style brought a smile to my face and added a bounce to my step; there's room for many things in culture and not all time is wasted, even "downtime". I'm sure Bach took breaks too.

And yet I find that his work is not the thing I need most of the time. And even when I want some Bach, I mostly resort to the excellent "jazzy" interpretations of Jaques Loussier[1].

Gangnam Style is brilliant. You can watch it dozens of times, always discovering something new. It also spawned a large number of extremely entertaining spoofs.

It would indeed be a sad world if we had peaked culturally at Bach. Fortunately, we haven't.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x6jzKpqeuw

But I don't like Bach. I'm supposed to listen to what you think I should like, because you think Bach is better? Who gets to decide?

The terms arrogance and pretense were used for a reason.

Spent, not wasted.

If you think Pop culture is a waste, then why not calculate 90%+ of YouTube multiple by # of views, time people spent in front of the television since its existence, as well as movies, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Computer games, etc.

In fact, most of the time and bandwidth being spent on "The Internet" is a waste - according to this theory.

From 3/07/12 - Nearly 6 Million Years of World of Warcraft Healthy for Players' Brains

By one analyst's calculation, the 11 million or so registered users of the online role-playing fantasy World of Warcraft collectively have spent as much time playing the game since its introduction in 2004 as humanity spent evolving as a species-about 50 billion hours of game time, which adds up to about 5.9 million years.


Huh. This started ringing some bells, and sure enough, there was a previous HN thread on similar topic:


TLDR my response: don't be so judgmental.

That also means that some bad people spent less time doing bad things because of Gangnam Style.

Assuming a 80 year life span, and 5 billion humans, that is only .00001% of their life span. I hope we do better with the rest?

Well, this analysis simplistically does length times views, deliberately ignoring the fact that hardly all Youtube "views" go for the full duration. Youtube has analytics that will show an average watching duration of 1-2 minutes for most music videos.

And of course there's opportunity "cost". Presumably a fair fraction of that 14,000 years just replaced watching other Internet videos or other inanity instead. It's not like we'd reclaim 14,000 years of productivity by never having had Gangnam.

And people multitask, watching a video in one window while doing something else. Or just play it in the background for the music, not even watching the video. We wouldn't count every Winamp or iTunes play of the song as the same wasted time.

These are kind of false comparisons. It's comparing man-years spent watching Gangnam Style against years spent building the Taj Mahal. There's a huge difference. Divide the number of years given by the population of planet Earth to get the number of years the entirety of humanity wasted on Gangnam Style (it's something like 0.00000207 years - off by 11 orders of magnitude). Or multiply the number of people who built the Taj Mahal by the number of years they spent building it to get the number of man-years they spent. I'd guess around 1,000 people built the Taj Mahal. That's 21,000 man-years, even more than was spent watching Gangnam Style.

Of course, if you added all the numbers for all the stupid youtube videos, memes, worthless news articles, facebook posts, etc. together, then you'd probably get something terribly depressing. My guess is some tiny fraction of humanity actually sustains the rest of the species. They are the (much less than) 1%.

And now a little more discussing it ;)

I came here to say the same thing, so it seems we're both guilty of it as well.

I didn't even read his article... , already spent to much time on Gagnam Style ;)

The world is all about trivialities today and escapism (let's not face reality). Especially in the West. Young men and women (in general) don't really mature until their mid 30s and some never do.

We have an entire generation of people distracted every 30 seconds by fart apps, juvenile videos and self-photos in the bathroom. We need more engineers, doctors and lawyers and serious thinkers.

Maybe I'm just getting older, but that's my honest opinion.

You have a terribly misinformed honest opinion. Maybe you should go out more?

> The Empire State Building took only two years to build.

Um, the site is counting man-hours for YouTube videos, but I know there was more than just one guy working on the Empire State Building.

According to Wikipedia, there were 3,400 workers on the project, so the correct comparison would be 14,526 years to 6,800 years. And I bet I had a lot more fun adding my 15 minutes to Gangnam Style than I'd have adding 15 minutes to build the Empire State Building.

I didn't see it!

People are also amazed when I tell them I haven't seen Avatar, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I guess I'm just different than most people.

Yea, but you're the same as all the other people who feel the need to point out they have no tv and didn't see Star Wars.

I haven't seen Star Wars (and neither did any of my friends) but I own 3 TVs. I watch a shitload of TV shows.

This article (and the phenomenon it descibes) is likely why the GP mentioned people who don't have TVs: http://www.theonion.com/articles/area-man-constantly-mention...

So if you want to determine how much time you have 'wasted' related to the video, add up the time spent saying how you haven't seen it.

Edit: There is no anger involved, other than maybe a little at being called angry. :) It is just pointing out an aspect of the human condition. (I stopped watching TV for a few years around the time this article came out and this article gave me some extra self awareness.)

Or someone who downloads their media and doesn't want to pay $20 a ticket for bad movies.

The Harry Potter movies are excellent, one of the heights of 21st century pop culture if you ask me. You can also download them if you like..

I haven't seen any of these films, either. I don't see how it makes anyone different. Most people watch these films as part of a social experience, anyway.

I can relate to you. I stopped watching YouTube years ago and I've never missed it since then.

and did you play any games?

they're entitled to their opinion thats its 'wasted'. but really. wise enough to decide for other people how their time is best spent? is time spent being entertained wasted? or is time being entertained by gangnam style wasted but say, time reading 'in search of lost time' not?

Today I went to the loo, it took... say 90 seconds.

I'm betting that everyone on Earth went to the loo today, and also averaged 90 seconds.

Humanity wasted 19,889 years shitting today.

It took only 21 years to build the Taj Mahal in India!

What a waste.

I spend longer than 90 seconds to pinch a loaf. I also tend to daydream while I'm perched on the porcelain throne, often about data structures.

While we're on the subject, you might find this article entertaining: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groom_of_the_Stool

a bit arrogant as other people point it out but also makes a wrong comparison! WW1 lasted six years but the time wasted was much more, multiply it by the number of people involved (the soldiers alone were 68 millions) and the time spent on reconstruction and you got a much higher value, in the order of hundred of millions years.

cute, but also assumes no multitasking.

Maybe, but what is the effect of singing, dancing, and laughter on humans?

Not to mention building cultural bridges...

Time enjoyed is not time wasted.

After all, what is the point of the time we have, other than to enjoy it?

We may have increased productivity thereafter. I know I did! ;)

man years is more appropriate

The comparison to completion time of the Empire State Building, the Great Pyramid of Giza, etc, are dishonest. Those weren't completed by a single individual, so it doesn't make sense to compare it to all time spent by each person watching the video.

For a fair comparison, you should also count the time that people "waste" visiting those imperial derelicts.

In the case of the Eiffel Tower, it has received over 250 million visitors. Assume that people spend an hour per visit, that's around 30,000 years wasted visiting the Eiffel Tower.

Now that's a super interesting snippet. Despite existing for far longer than Gangnam, the Eiffel Tower has only entertained twice as long total as Gangnam. Technology has democratized access to experiences.

I was thinking the same thing. First one I saw was for the Eiffel Tower, which took 300 people 2 years, so that should actually show as 600 years, not 2.

Not to mention the time required to design it, the time spent by workers to collect the raw materials used to build it, the time spent in factories to produce a finished metal product that could be used in construction, etc.

Attempting to calculate the man-hours that went into almost any project of scale is absurd. There are far too many factors to consider.

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