Might there finally be TMI?

New York Times op-ed contributor Shelley Podolny weighed in today with a column [“The Digital Pileup“] on the high cost of our digital lives. Not the “we’re all becoming shallow thinkers” costs, but ones that can be measured in dollars and cents. She says 70 percent of the data in server farms is stuff that comes from . . . us.

And it’s growing like the title character in a certain 1958 Steve McQueen film.

“The current volume estimate of all electronic information is roughly 1.2 zettabytes, the amount of data that would be generated by everyone in the world posting messages on Twitter continuously for a century,” Podolny says. “That includes everything from e-mail to YouTube. More stunning: 75 percent of the information is duplicative. By 2020, experts estimate that the volume will be 44 times greater than it was in 2009. There finally may be, in fact, T.M.I.”

Just to be clear, 1.2 zettabytes is just the amount we were expected to generate just in 2010, according to research from IDC. That fact appears in “All Too Much“—part of a comprehensive report on information that The Economist published in February 2010.

The University of California at San Diego also put out a report last year called “How Much Information?” Among its findings:

In 2008, Americans consumed information for about 1.3 trillion hours, an average of almost 12 hours per day. Consumption totaled 3.6 zettabytes and 10,845 trillion words, corresponding to 100,500 words and 34 gigabytes for an average person on an average day. A zettabyte is 10 to the 21st power bytes, a million million gigabytes. These estimates are from an analysis of more than 20 different sources of information, from very old (newspapers and books) to very new (portable computer games, satellite radio, and Internet video).

The 36-page PDF breaks down the numbers in great detail. None of the information studied, by the way, was consumed at work.

Cisco says much more is coming via the mobile channel [read the story on Ars Technica]. The company’s latest Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast says world mobile data grew by a factor of 2.6 in 2010, and will increase by a factor of 26 by 2015. That’s the year when there will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users. Some other predictions for 2015:

  • Two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2015.
  • Mobile network connection speeds will increase ten times by that year.
  • Mobile-connected tablets will produce the same amount of traffic in 2015 as the entire global mobile network in 2010.

We’re going to do our part to curtail The Blob and sign off now.


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