The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information

A study appearing Feb. 10 in Science Express calculates the world’s total technological capacity to store, communicate and compute information, part of a Special Online Collection: Dealing with Data.

The study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism estimates that in 2007, humankind was able to store 2.9 × 1020 optimally compressed bytes, communicate almost 2 × 1021 bytes, and carry out 6.4 × 1018 instructions per second on general-purpose computers.

  • General-purpose computing capacity grew at an annual rate of 58%.
  • The world’s capacity for bidirectional telecommunication grew at 28% per year, closely followed by the increase in globally stored information (23%).
  • Humankind’s capacity for unidirectional information diffusion through broadcasting channels has experienced comparatively modest annual growth (6%).
  • Telecommunication has been dominated by digital technologies since 1990 (99.9% in digital format in 2007), and the majority of our technological memory has been in digital format since the early 2000s (94% digital in 2007).

How much information can the world store, communicate, and compute? from SCVideos on Vimeo.

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