Most of us would have, in one way or another, watched or caught a glimpse of the music video “Gangnam Style”. The loony video surpassed two billion views on YouTube this week, making it the most watched clip of all time. At 4:12 minutes, that equates to more than 140 m hours, or more than 16,000 years.
What other achievements were forgone in the time spent watching a sideways shuffle and air lasso? It took 50m man-hours to complete the “supercarrier” USS Gerald Ford last year. Had people not been watching PSY—the South Korean pop star who released the song in July 2012—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). The song’s nearest rival is Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, at a paltry one billion views. The opportunity cost of watching PSY’s frivolity is huge, but humanity has at least been entertained.