Wall Street Journal - The Numbers Guy Blog, Carl Bialik, Feb 19, 2011
The latest information about information overload is a lot to handle.
Wielding numbers that stretched to 20 or more digits, researchers recently reported on the world's massive ability to store, communicate and compute information. All three have grown at annual rates of at least 23% since 1986, according to a study published this month in Science.
Translated to a human scale, the massive numbers mean that the average person in 2007 was transmitting the informational equivalent of six newspapers per day, and receiving, in turn, 174 newspapers of data.
For data engineers, this might seem like cause for celebrating humanity's expanding universe of information. For the rest of us, it is another reminder that information is piling up at overwhelming rates.
But the digital avalanche isn't as massive as those numbers suggest. Much of the growth reflects the surge in high-resolution video and photos. In addition, while there is much more information available, each piece is being consumed, on average, by far fewer people than in the past.
Also, heavy Internet users-think downloaders of music and movies, or digital-photo fiends-are skewing the numbers. The average person doesn't have a high-speed line, let alone the ability to read six newspapers per day.