Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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How much digital data do we each produce?

May 19, 2010Writing the book

I'm struggling with a paragraph in my book and could use some technical help. I read this sentence in an IBM news release:

This year, there will be 1,200 exabytes of data generated from a variety of sources with 80% coming from social media sources such as blogs and wikis as well as mobile devices.  Business and governments alike are grappling with the challenge of making sense of this data deluge to turn it into new business opportunities.

Ok, I figure. If the world produces that many exabytes of data, how much, on average, does each of us produce? And how could we quantify that in terms normal people understand? Do we each spew out, on average, the equivalent of 10 Bibles of data a year. A hundred? I don't know.

So I look it up. One exabyte is one quintillian bytes, or 1 to the power of 18. Calculations are easier if we say the world population is 6 billion (though I guess it's closer to 7). So that's 6 to the power of 9. Do we each produce, on average, 200 to the power of 9 bytes? And if so, is that 200 gigabytes per person? If so, we're not talking Bibles here, but entire libraries.

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