Let's face it, Americans are info hogs. We feast our eyes and ears on TV, computers, video game consoles, handheld consoles, smart phones, radio, movies, and music -- not to mention print media. Now a new report finds that the info diet adds up to about 34 gigabytes per day for each person, or the equivalent of 11.8 hours per day.
Total numbers get even scarier. All those beloved info-delivery gadgets in U.S. homes helped Americans collectively consume 3.6 zettabytes of data in 2008. Just one zettabyte would fill 1,000 datacenters, or, as the report suggests, 3.6 zettabytes of text in books stacked tightly across the continental U.S. and Alaska would create a massive pile 7 feet high.
Researchers at the University of California in San Diego asked a simple question: "How much information?" That became the title of their new report, which collects info from the U.S. Census, Nielsen's consumer monitoring, and other industry sources.
If the 11.8 hours sounds a bit much for a person each day, that's because the report did not adjust for double-counting simultaneous sources. So a person watching TV and using the computer at the same time would have both sources counted toward their total info consumption -- but it's perhaps a good indicator of the info overload we experience.
Looking back, researchers say that American info consumption has grown by 350 percent over the past 28 years. The National Security Agency similarly anticipates more info gluttony from not just the U.S., but across the world -- it has plans to store yottabytes of surveillance data by 2015, or enough to fill a million datacenters spread across Delaware and Rhode Island.
no surprise here.
One has to wonder what the material cost of that info-addiction really is. Of course, there are all those poor souls in Africa who make a "living" mining Coltan for our electronics, and those who spend their days assembling them in factories.
How much physical material (chips) is used just to store all that data - most of which we don't even need? I've still got some old 3D models on my flash drive from school ...
If our appetite for information spreads to people in the developing world, those NSA guys are going to need a whole lot more storage space.
All that being said, I'm obviously one of those data hogs, sitting here typing away on my laptop. I hope those Coltan miners are at least getting some profit from my American consumerism ....
I've got to assume that there's some "heavy users" skewing that data, because I use the internet a lot and I couldn't come close to 34 gigabytes a day. The max speed I've ever downloaded something at was about a gigabyte an hour, and I'm pretty sure I don't max out my connection all that often.
I bet they put businesses in the mix seeing as how they didn't even filter out people that use a tv and computer at the same time.
Now to think that our brain can store over billions of gigabytes is another amazement.
Does three people watching the same program on TV count as one lot of data or three? Should the laptop pecking, TV watching, SMS txting, iPod listening teenager count as one lot of data or four?
This isn't surprising at all, considering they are counting TV consumption. Even in the 1970's I was consuming streaming video every time I turned on a TV. In the 1950's, my parents were streaming audio on their radio.
It is a good measurement, however, to understand the needed width for when society transitions to entirely web-based.
I can believe this.
I download 8g a day at home (between streaming and downloading) - all while playing on my BlackBerry and watching the news on one channel, and having another channel TiVo'd. That doesn't take into account the 12-14gig of work I do during a normal work day - even as I type this, I have 7 IT windows open, Excel is running 3x 700kb files and a proprietary, web based program that burns through 2g/hr.
That's just me.
My wife though, would negate my stats, because she uses 1 excel file a week, and rarely watches TV or uses the net.
How many Twinkies does that work out to?