Prodding its tongue gently into its cheek, the Economist looks at the global opportunity cost of watching “Gangnam Style”, the pop video from South Korea’s PSY.
The most popular clip of all time has now passed two billion views on YouTube, prompting the magazine to ponder “what humanity could achieve if it weren’t galloping in front of computer screens”.
At 4:12 minutes, that equates to more than 140m hours, or more than 16,000 years … It took 50m man-hours to complete the ‘supercarrier’ USS Gerald Ford last year. Had people not been watching Psy they could have constructed three such ships. Alternatively they could have built more than four Great Pyramids of Giza, or another Wikipedia, or six Burj Khalifas in Dubai (the world’s tallest building).
Still, it mutters, “humanity has at least been entertained”.
“Gangnam Style” is the exception, of course: most YouTube videos attract only a few dozen clicks. For the true obscurist, PetitTube (it’s made in France) randomly selects clips that have been viewed fewer than 10 times – much in the vein of Forgotify, which salvages songs on the service that have never been chosen.
I was served up some footage of a Polish train, a static shot of a Japanese woman writing while loud house music plays and a few frames of skiing recorded from television.
It says something that comfortably the most entertaining of the dozen or so clips I endured in the cause of this column was an advertisement for Expert Hardwood Flooring, from Mifflinton, Pennsylvania.