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The Data Explosion

The storage industry has become very accustomed to describing data growth as “an explosion.” It has stopped being an original metaphor and the search is on to find a new word that adequately expresses the rapid propagation of structured and unstructured data.  Of course, there’s always the word “exponential…”

Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future is a very optimistic look at what technology could offer people if the author’s 12 inevitable trends continue. While Kelly is careful not to predict products, technologies or the future, he sees 12 trends that seem likely both to continue and to intersect with the others. The possible results are exciting and readers of Society’s Genome might be very interested in the book and its conclusions.

I was particularly taken by his description of the increase in data capture. He chooses a metric that makes the explosion metaphor seem apt:

“There’s another way to visualize this [data] growth: as an information explosion. Every second of every day we globally manufacture 6,000 square meters of information storage material—disks, chips, DVDs, paper, film—which we promptly fill up with data. That rate—6,000 square meters per second—is the approximate velocity of the shock wave radiating from an atomic explosion. Information is expanding at the rate of a nuclear explosion, but unlike a real atomic explosion, which lasts only seconds, this information explosion is perpetual, a nuclear blast lasting many decades.”

The exciting world Kelly sketches requires not only great processing power but capacious, reliable, and accessible data storage – it’s a future even more reliant on its data and the technology that protects it.