Information Doubling

Posted & filed under Social Media.

I learned a new word today: yottabyte. A yottabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. I’m a computer guy so I’m familiar with the other common units of measure: kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte. I even bought a terabyte-sized external hard drive at Costco last year, something I could never imagine doing in the early days of the Internet. It’s almost full now, and I may need to get another. Will I ever have a petabyte (1000 terabytes) sitting on my desk at home, I wonder?

I doubt I’ll ever need a yottabyte. It’s the equivalent of a trillion terabytes, and I’m not sure I have need for that. That’s a lot of mp3’s and avi’s. And I can just imagine the time it would take to defragment that disk. I might have to go into cryogenic hibernation for a few million years.

And the wikipedia page for yottabyte claims “as of 2009 the entire Internet was estimated to contain close to 500 exabytes.” So, we are collectively still a ways off from needing a yottabyte, as that would be 2,000,000 Internets. That’s a lot of facebook postings!

But then again, I recall reading an article by Robert Anton Wilson many years ago, which claimed the sum total of human information was doubling at an exponential rate. If we start with 1 A.D., it roughly breaks down like this:

  • Once between Christ and Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Once between Da Vinci and the Revolution
  • Once between Revolution and early 1900s
  • Once again in each: 1950, 1960, 1967 and 1973
  • Today, info. doubles every 18 months, and by 2012 it is expected to double every day, and then by the end of 2012 every second… (source:

And this isn’t just foo-foo, new age stuff. Even IBM made the claim back in 2007 that by 2010, information would be doubling every 11 hours. (Is it?)

I’ll try not to veer off into 2012 territory, although I am pleased it is just around the corner, and we can finally witness whatever may happen. Information doubling every second? It would be a shame to lose all that knowledge to some kind of apocalyptic disaster, so I hope we keep it backed up properly. We might need another yottabyte.

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