Recommended reading - Shirky
Skip the cheesy intro music and tune into this video from Clay Shirky's recent talk at the Web. 2.0 conference on his idea on why we have a "cognitive surplus" that is powering people's desire to create, share and derivate online.
His thesis, briefly and inadequately stated, is that TV -- specifically the sitcom -- served as an opiate for the masses post World War II as people found they suddenly had all this free time to manage. He calls it a "cognitive heat sink" from which we are emerging and beginning to realize it is a "cognitive surplus" that can be harnessed.
Shirky always gets you thinking.