Survey points to explosion in digital information

Ignoring for one moment the ridiculous nature of the following article's title - How one year's digital output would fill 161bn iPods (Richard Wray, The Guardian) - it's quite startling to hear that the recent proliferation of digital technology equates to 161bn gigabytes of information.

The analogy of an iPod is poor, and it may be best to appreciate the amount of information with the following statement contained in the article:

"The sheer amount of data that has been created by the digital age becomes clear when comparing it with the spoken word.

Experts estimate that all human language since the dawn of time would take up about 5 exabytes if stored in digital form. In comparison, last year's email traffic accounted for 6 exabytes."

So, what does that mean?

Well, I'm not really qualified to say, but it suggests the following to me:

1) There's a lot of digital information out there that is either useless or will only be seen by an absolute minoriity.
2) Historians are going to have a field day in years to come if they possess the equipment to read all the digital information we are currently producing.
3) Unlike old forms of information, digital information can be transmitted around the world in seconds and can often be easily copied.
4) The people who own the means of production do not hold or even make the majority of information currently produced, which is often freely available if we take the time to look for it, or people take the time to draw our attention to it.

No rocket science there, but for me, this is clear evidence of how the proliferation of digital technologies and ease by which most of us can access and exploit the Internet, is changing our lives far more than we could ever have anticipated only a decade ago.

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