Humans bombarded by billions of bytes of information

February 11th, 2011 - 5:00 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 11 (IANS) Ever wondered how we are being bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers-full of data a day?According to researchers, there is around 295 exabytes of data floating around the world — that’s around 295 billion gigabytes.

The growth of the internet, 24-hour television channels and mobile phones means that we now receive five times as much information every day as we did in 1986.

Daily, the average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two-and-a-half pages 24 years ago, nearly a 200-fold increase, reports the journal Science.

All this information needs storing and we now have the equivalent of 600,000 books stored in computers, microchips and even on the strip on the back of your credit card, according to the Telegraph.

The extent of the information revolution and digital age has been calculated by Martin Hilbert and his team at the University of Southern California.

They used a complex formula to calculate the average amount of information stored and sent in the world from every medium - computers, papers, books and letters by post.

“These figures show that we are in the middle of the information age,” Hilbert said.

“When you think that 100 years ago people were lucky to read the equivalent of 50 books in a lifetime, but now most children have watched a couple of hundred movies.”

“In 1986 we sent out — mainly by post, telephone and fax — around two and a half pages of newspaper each day. This increased to six newspapers thanks to e-mail, digital photography, the Twitter and other social network sites by 2007,” he points out.

The actual switchover from analogue to digital occurred in 2002 and now 94 percent of all data is stored in digital form.

The researchers found that there was now 295 exabytes of data floating around the world — that’s around 29,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of information, Hilbert claims in the report (One exabyte is equal to one quintillion byes or one billion gigabytes).

While this is enormous - 315 times the number of grains of sand on earth - Hilbert points out it is still less than one percent of the information that is stored in the DNA of a single human being.

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