If you think you’re overloaded with information, it’s turns out you’re not even close.
Researchers from the University of Southern California and Open University of Catalonia in Santiago calculated the world’s total technological capacity — how much information humankind is able to store, communicate and compute.
Here’s how they did it: Scientists Martin Hilbert and Priscila López used 1,120 sources and basically multiplied the number of installed technological devices with their respective performances from 1986 through 2007.
All estimates are yearly averages, and they included the fact that the technological data of a given year is the result of an accumulation process of previous years, whereas each year’s technologies contribute with different performance rates.
The statistics they used were from the databases of international organisations, historical inventories from individuals for commercial or academic purposes, publicly available statistics from private research firms, as well as sales and product specifications from equipment producers.
If you combine digital memory and analogue devices, like books, humankind is able to store at least 295 exabytes of information. (Yes, that's a number with 20 zeroes in it.)
But it's still less than one per cent of the information that is stored in all the DNA molecules of a human being.
Humankind sent 1.9 zettabytes of information through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS in 2007.
That's the equivalent of every person in the world communicating the contents of six newspapers every day.
In 2007, all the general-purpose computers in the world computed 6.4 x 10^18 instructions per second
If we wanted to give a separate name to every star in the universe, according to Hilbert, we would only be able to store the name of every thousandth star and would have used all the paper and microchips in the world to do it.
'These numbers are impressive, but still minuscule compared to the order of magnitude at which nature handles information,' says Hilbert. 'Compared to nature, we are but humble apprentices. However, while the natural world is mind-boggling in its size, it remains fairly constant. In contrast, the world's technological information processing capacities are growing at exponential rates.'
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