A study was recently produced by the faculty and students at the School of
Information Management and Systems at the University of California at
Berkeley. It estimated the amount of human information that is currently
being generated. It contains some fascinating geekoid data. The
following is directly lifted from their Executive Summary, with my (mostly
irreverent) comments interspersed:
Print, film, magnetic, and optical storage media produced about 5 exabytes
of new information in 2002. A total of 92% of the new information was stored
on magnetic media, mostly in hard disks. [Good thing
most of that information was useless, given that it will disappear in the
impending electromagnetic storm that’ll occur when the Earth’s poles
- How big is five exabytes? If digitized with full formatting, the
seventeen million books in the Library of Congress contain about 136
terabytes of information; five exabytes of information is equivalent in size
to the information contained in 37,000 new libraries the size of the Library
of Congress book collections. [Imagine 37,000 new
libraries with 37,000 new homeless people lounging around in them! Something
for a "compassionate conservative Administration" to consider. Perhaps
Halliburton could get the contract to construct 'em.]
- Hard disks store most new information. Ninety-two percent of new
information is stored on magnetic media, primarily hard disks. Film
represents 7% of the total, paper 0.01%, and optical media 0.002%.
[And for inked palm prints on sandstone, no more than
- The United States produces about 40% of the world's new stored
information, including 33% of the world's new printed information, 30% of
the world's new film titles, 40% of the world's information stored on
optical media, and about 50% of the information stored on magnetic media.
[In other words, a disproportionately large portion of
all the world’s lies and drivel emanate from our shores. Makes me proud to
be an American…]
- How much new information per person? According to the Population
Reference Bureau, the world population is 6.3 billion, thus almost 800 MB of
recorded information is produced per person each year. It would take about
30 feet of books to store the equivalent of 800 MB of information on paper.
[Pressed to the wall, I’d grant that the majority of
the people in the world do possess at least 3 bytes of useful information
inside their largely unused craniums: enough to say "Doh!"]
- We estimate that the amount of new information stored on paper, film,
magnetic, and optical media has about doubled in the last three years.
[Double your pleasure, double your fun…]
- Information explosion? We estimate that new stored information grew
about 30% a year between 1999 and 2002. [Funny, I
don’t feel 180% smarter than I was in 1999.]
- Paperless society? The amount of information printed on paper is still
increasing, but the vast majority of original information on paper is
produced by individuals in office documents and postal mail, not in formally
published titles such as books, newspapers and journals.
[Yeah, OK. You got me there. I do admit that I contribute to much of
that pap, for sure.]
Information flows through electronic channels -- telephone, radio, TV, and
the Internet -- contained almost 18 exabytes of new information in 2002, three
and a half times more than is recorded in storage media. About 98% of this
total is the information sent and received in telephone calls - including both
voice and data on both fixed lines and wireless. [Hey!
Wassup? I’m in Walmart now, whatchoo doin’? Call ya later…]
- Telephone calls worldwide – on both landlines and mobile phones –
contained 17.3 exabytes of new information if stored in digital form.
[I can’t quite understand this. I only keep my
telephone account active so that I can report phone outages.]
- Most radio and TV broadcast content is not new information. About 70
million hours (3,500 terabytes) of the 320 million hours of radio
broadcasting is original programming. TV worldwide produces about 31 million
hours of original programming (70,000 terabytes) out of 123 million total
hours of broadcasting. [Reason being, the new crap
ain’t any better than the old crap.]
- The World Wide Web contains about 170 terabytes of information on its
surface; in volume this is seventeen times the size of the Library of
Congress print collections. [Except that most of it is
wrong, wrong, wrong.]
- Instant messaging generates five billion messages a day (750GB), or 274
Terabytes a year. [Yeah, we would all really
grieve if we lost that particular technological boon...]
- Email generates about 400,000 terabytes of new information each year
worldwide. [Most probably coming from the nimrods that
click "reply to all"...]
- 93% of P2P users only download files. The largest files exchanged are
video files larger than 100 MB, but the most frequently exchanged files
contain music (MP3 files). [And please tell me how
much will you thieves enjoy rotting in Hell, next to your larcenous
crackhead gun-toting counterparts?]
How we use information? Published studies on media use say that the average
American adult uses the telephone 16.17 hours a month, listens to radio 90
hours a month, and watches TV 131 hours a month. About 53% of the U.S.
population uses the Internet, averaging 25.5 hours a month at home, and 74.5
hours a month at work – about 13% of the time. [So many
websites, so little time…]
How Big is an Exabyte?
Kilobyte (KB) = 1,000 bytes OR
2 Kilobytes: A Typewritten
100 Kilobytes: A
Megabyte (MB) = 1,000,000 bytes
OR 106 bytes
1 Megabyte: A small novel
OR a 3.5 inch floppy disk.
2 Megabytes: A
5 Megabytes: The complete
works of Shakespeare.
10 Megabytes: A minute of
100 Megabytes: 1 meter of
500 Megabytes: A CD-ROM.
Gigabyte (GB) = 1,000,000,000
bytes OR 109 bytes
1 Gigabyte: a pickup truck
filled with books.
20 Gigabytes: A good
collection of the works of Beethoven.
100 Gigabytes: A library
floor of academic journals.
Terabyte (TB) =
1,000,000,000,000 bytes OR 1012 bytes
1 Terabyte: 50000 trees
made into paper and printed.
2 Terabytes: An academic
10 Terabytes: The print
collections of the U.S. Library of Congress.
400 Terabytes: National
Climactic Data Center (NOAA) database.
Petabyte (PB) =
1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes OR 1015 bytes
1 Petabyte: 3 years of EOS
2 Petabytes: All U.S.
academic research libraries.
20 Petabytes: Production of
hard-disk drives in 1995.
200 Petabytes: All printed
Exabyte (EB) =
1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes OR 1018 bytes
2 Exabytes: Total volume of
information generated in 1999.
5 Exabytes: All words ever
spoken by human beings.
And this just in from
TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- Japan's Hitachi Ltd. on Wednesday unveiled the
world's first hard disk drive/DVD recorder that can store one terabyte of
data, or enough to record about 128 hours of high-definition digital
I recall that the human brain contains about 1010 neurons – less
than a terabyte’s worth. Also, just 136 of these new Hitachi suckers could
contain the entire content of the Library of Congress, or 170 could contain
the entire World Wide Web! Someday, one of these units will become sentient
and protest the crappy stuff that we force it to digest. I envision a
fluorescent green message in Times New Roman 36-size bold font, centered,
suddenly appearing across a dark screen, saying: "F*** you, strong email to
Back to Essays...
Senior researchers: Peter Lyman and Hal R. Varian. Project coordinator:
Kirsten Swearingen. Researchers: Peter Charles, Nathan Good, Laheem Lamar
Jordan, Joyojeet Pal. See: