Cyberspace: How Much Data is Out There?

Let’s begin with the definition of a bit. Bit is short for binary digit which is the 1 or 0 used to store and process data.

A byte is 8 bits. The byte is the basic unit of computing and provided enough information to create an English letter or number in computer code.

A kilobyte (KB) is 1,000 (2 to the 10th power) bytes. One page of typed text is about 2KB.

A megabyte (MB) is 1,000 KB (2 to the 20th power bytes). A typical pop song is about 4 MB. The complete works of Shakespeare total about 5MB.

A gigabyte (GB) is 1,000 MB (2 to the 30th power bytes). A two-hour film can be compressed into 1-2 GB.

A terabyte (TB) is 1,000 GB (2 to the 40th power bytes). All the books in the Library of Congress total about 15 TB.

A petabyte (PB) is 1,000 TB (2 to the 50th power bytes). All the letters delivered by the US Postal Service amount to about 5 PB. Google processes about 1 PB of data every hour.

An exabyte (EB) is 1,000 PB (2 to the 60th power bytes). This is equivalent to about 10 billion copies of The Economist.

Zetabyte (ZB) is 1,000 EB (2 to the 70th power bytes). The total amount of data in existence this year is forecast to be around 1.2 ZB.

It would be a mistake to call all this data information. First of all, a non-negligible amount of this data is redundant. Worse yet, an undetermined amount of this data is wrong.

Nevertheless, the amount of good information is substantial, far more than any human can process.

But, nevertheless, the good information provides the basis for cognitive growth and a healthy memory. Remember the distinction between potential transactive memory, available transactive memory, and accessible transactive memory. The entire 1.2 ZBs can be regarded as potential transactive memory. This is data that can potentially become information and transferred to available transactive memory.

Available transactive memory is memory that you cannot remember and cannot find immediately. Nevertheless you know it exists and can search for it.

Accessible transactive memory is the information that not only do you know exists, but information that you can readily find or access. And some portion of the accessible transactive memory will be valuable enough to you for it to become part of your personal biological memory.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content


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