How much information is there?

I found this article by Michael Lesk on the Scientific American site. It’s a legitimate look at how much information, say in petabytes, there is in the world. No, a petabyte is not part of your lunch. It is a million gigabytes. According to Lesk, enough disk storage space has already been sold to contain all the information there is. Somehow, I find that discouraging. I don’t know why.

Maybe putting a finite number on the total amount of information, after digitization of course, takes all the magic out of it. I mean, he’s not just talking about published information. He’s talking about all the movies and phone calls and conversations and pictures and TV and radio and everything else that a computer can suck in.

Plato, Lesk says, thought that writing was bad because it would reduce the need for memory. Even now, we need only remember how to operate a search engine to have unimaginatively vast stores of knowledge available to us. Pretty soon, he says (and he was writing back in the 1990s) we’ll only be creating information for computers to use, because a human being can only “know” so much (and then begins forgetting it).

When will we start recording those monkeys?

DadStuffs12/04/04 0 comments

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