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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 reverse...]

  • 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 0.00001%.]
  • 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 103 bytes

2 Kilobytes: A Typewritten page.

100 Kilobytes: A low-resolution photograph.

Megabyte (MB) = 1,000,000 bytes OR 106 bytes

1 Megabyte: A small novel OR a 3.5 inch floppy disk.

2 Megabytes: A high-resolution photograph.

5 Megabytes: The complete works of Shakespeare.

10 Megabytes: A minute of high-fidelity sound.

100 Megabytes: 1 meter of shelved books.

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 research library.

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 data (2001).

2 Petabytes: All U.S. academic research libraries.

20 Petabytes: Production of hard-disk drives in 1995.

200 Petabytes: All printed material.

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 http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/ptech/08/24/hitachi.recorder.reut/index.html:

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 broadcasting.

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 follow…"

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Senior researchers: Peter Lyman and Hal R. Varian. Project coordinator: Kirsten Swearingen. Researchers: Peter Charles, Nathan Good, Laheem Lamar Jordan, Joyojeet Pal.  See: http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info-2003/execsum.htm#summary.


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