TED Radio Hour asks: “Why do we collaborate?”

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This week’s TED Radio Hour examines “Why We Collaborate,” exploring why, and how, millions of people come together to work on online projects, sometimes for free.

The episode begins with Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, who spoke at TEDGlobal 2005, back when the site was still very new. The incredible growth of Wikipedia since then not only illustrates the range of people who contribute to it, but how mass collaboration can improve the world in increments. Next, Luis Von Ahn approaches a similar problem from a slightly different perspective. His project Duolingo teaches students languages by getting them to translate the web, a daunting project. He suggests that some form of return, like learning a language, is necessary to get people to give up their free time.

The conversation continues with Clay Shirky, who advocates for a more productive use of the 35 hours per week a person in the US, on average, spends watching television. He calls this free time “cognitive surplus” and suggests we should celebrate those who use this time creatively to increase civic value. Next up is Jason Fried, who explains why the workplace is often so unproductive and proposes an alternative.

Closing out the episode is Jennifer Pahlka, who reminds us that we are not just consumers of government but citizens, with the ability to make big changes if we harness our collaborative power. She asks us, “When it comes to the big, important things that we need to do together — are we just going to be a crowd of voices, or are we also going to be a crowd of hands?”

Check your local NPR schedule to find out when TED Radio Hour’s “Why We Collaborate” airs. Or listen to it via NPR’s website »

You can also head to iTunes, where the podcast is available now »