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Data Deluge: Digital Bits Could Outnumber Earth’s Atoms in 200 Years

By Dick Weisinger

We’re awash in data. IDC estimates that humans will store 6.8 zettabytes of data in 2020. The total data stored is now doubling every four years. The increased capture of video and sensor data is behind at least part of the explosive growth. IDC has been measuring the massive size of the digital universe for more than a decade.

John Rydning, IDC’s Global DataSphere research vice president, said that “we live in an increasingly video-enabled and video-assisted world, and consume an increasing amount of entertainment video each year – these are key factors driving the growth of the Global DataSphere.”

Now, Melvin Vopson, a researcher at IBM, has taken the digital estimates one step further. Vopson calculated that if data increases at the rate of 50 percent annually, the number of digital bits will be larger than the number of atoms on earth by 2170. At that point, there will be 133 quindecillion bits in existence which is roughly the number of atoms that make up planet earth.

Vopson said that “We are literally changing the planet bit by bit, and it is an invisible crisis… The growth of digital information seems truly unstoppable. 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.”

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