Scientists have figured out just how much data there is in the world, and it’s a lot!The journal Science featured this study and it has uncovered some very interesting facts. The amount of data stored in the world up to 2007 has been measured at 295 exabytes; 1 exabytes is 1 billion gigabytes.
To store that data you would need either 1.2 billion average sized hard drives, enough books to cover China 13 times or a stack of CDs that would reach beyond the moon. The study calculated this estimate by taking data from 60 different technologies during the period 1986 to 2007, from PCs, hard drives, DVDs, obsolete floppy disks, x-ray films, credit card microchips, paper adverts, books and more.
The world of computer data storage has come a long way; it used to be measured in kilobytes, then megabytes and gigabytes and now terabytes. After terabytes come petabytes, exabytes and then zettabytes.
The study uncovered some really interesting facts.
- In the year 2000 75% of stored information was in analogue format such as video cassettes, in the year 2007 94% of stored information was digital. Just think for a moment about how significant that change is.
- In today’s world 2 zettabytes (1 zettabyte equals 1000 exabytes) of information is broadcast every day.
- Global computing capacity increased 58% per year from 1986-2007
- The DNA in one human body can store roughly 300 times more information than we store in all our technological devices.
- 2002 is the year recognised as the arrival of the digital age. In this year, for the first time, worldwide digital capacity overtook analogue capacity.
- The digital divide is growing between rich and poor countries. In 2002 the developed world communicated 8 times more information than people in the developing world, this had doubled by the year 2007.
- Richer countries have 15 times more information carrying capacity over poorer countries.
The lead scientist of the study, Dr Hilbert, had this to say:
“There have been other revolutions before…The car changed society completely, or electricity. Every 40, 50 or 60 years something grows faster than anything else, and right now it’s information…Basically what you can do with information is transit it through space, and we call that communication. You can transit it through time; we call that storage. Or you can transform it, manipulate it, change the meaning of it, and we call that computation.”
This is the age of information and the effects can already be seen. Without the communication of information revolts like the one in Egypt could not have happened. Before it was easy for governments to take heavy handed action and squash an uprising. Now with technology such as video cameras in mobile phones and the Internet information can be recorded and shared very easily. All governmental violence can be recorded, and then uploaded to the web to sites such as Youtube, this holds the authorities back.
‘Knowledge is power’ and ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’; two great idioms that have stood the test of time. Maybe ‘information is power’ and ‘the Internet is mightier than tear gas’ should be the slogans of our generation.