Digital data could outnumber the total atoms on Earth says United Kingdom Physicist


Digital data will overtake Earth’s actual atoms by 2245 says a physicist from the University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom

A Physicist from the University of Portsmouth in United Kingdom as warned a doomsday like a scenario if we don’t control our digital data spewing. Humans are generating nearly 2.5 quintillion bytes of digital data every day. With the increase in the internet reach, this is only going to increase.

In a research paper called, The Information Catastrophe, Physicist Melvin M Vopson argues that if we continue generating data at such speed, the digital data generated by us will soon overtake Earth’s actual atoms and that could be disastrous for humanity.

According to Vopson, the digital data generated by humans could be half of Earth’s actual atoms by year 2245.

Currently, we produce ∼1021 digital bits of information annually on Earth. Assuming a 20% annual growth rate, we estimate that after ∼350 years from now, the number of bits produced will exceed the number of all atoms on Earth, ∼1050. After ∼300 years, the power required to sustain this digital production will exceed 18.5 × 1015 W, i.e., the total planetary power consumption today, and after ∼500 years from now, the digital content will account for more than half Earth’s mass, according to the mass-energy–information equivalence principle.

The Information Catastrophe

In addition to generating or spewing digital data, we are also creating huge amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, says Vopson. The research calculates that as the amount of digital bits we create continues to grow, they could actually outnumber the total atoms on Earth as soon as 2170 (assuming a 50% annual growth rate in digital bits created). “It would be approximately 130 years until the power needed to sustain digital information creation would equal all the power currently produced on planet Earth, and by 2245, half of Earth’s mass would be converted to digital information mass,” he says.

“The growth of digital information seems truly unstoppable,” Vopson said. “According to IBM and other big data research sources, 90% of the world’s data today has been created in the last 10 years alone. In some ways, the current COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this process as more digital content is used and produced than ever before.”

He adds that the rise of the use of Internet of Things connected devices has caused the digital data generation to be nearly doubled in the past two years.

It’s worth noting that IDC estimates that the amount of data created annually is even higher and IDC estimates the annual growth rate over the next few years to be around 26%.


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"The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had." Eric Schmidt

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