Humans were able to store at least 295 exabytes of information as of 2007, says a new study that estimated the world's technological capacity to store, communicate, and compute. In decimal terms, an exabyte is equal to a billion gigabytes.
In other words, the amount of data the world stored by 2007 is equal to 1.2 billion average hard drives.
Put another way, if a single star is a bit of information, that's a galaxy of information for every person in the world.
The study by the University of Southern California (USC) tracked 60 analog and digital technologies during the period from 1986 to 2007.
The researchers say humankind sent 1.9 zettabytes (1,000 exabytes) of information in 2007 through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS, equivalent to every person in the world receiving 174 newspapers every day.
According to the study, the amount humans communicate has increased an average of 28 percent every year since 1986, or, five times as fast as the United States' GDP. Humans shared 65 exabytes of information in 2007, the equivalent of every person in the world sending out the contents of six newspapers every day.
General-purpose computing capacity grew at an annual rate of 58 percent.
Compared to nature, we are but humble apprentices. However, while the natural world is mind-boggling in its size, it remains fairly constant. In contrast, the world's technological information processing capacities are growing at exponential rates, said lead author Martin Hilbert of the USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism.