dcyphr | The information catastrophe
Daniel Amuedo

I am a premedical student at Missouri St...


Every year, all humans produce around 1021  bits of digital information on Earth. A bit is a shorthand way to reference binary digits, which are either a 1 or 0. These are the base units that computers use to calculate everything. This study assumes a 20% growth rate which predicts that after 350 years from now the amount of bits produced will surpass the amount of atoms on Earth, and around 300 years from now, the amount of energy required to sustain the production of these digital bits will exceed the total planetary consumption of power currently. After 500 years, the mass-energy-information equivalence principle states that every bit is roughly 3.19 x 10-38kg and that all the digital content will equal more than half of the mass of the Earth. This issue should be explored alongside other global issues such as climate change, food, health, environment, population, energy, security, and other global issues otherwise the researchers suggest the planet is headed towards a singular point called the information catastrophe.  

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The key to the rapid success in recent computing advances is partly due to the ability to store information. This study aims to explore physics of the creation of information and its limit. As the growth rate of digital creation increases, the amount of time required for the amount of bits created to equal the amount of atoms on Earth decreases. The same pattern can be observed with regards to energy usage. As the growth rate increases, the amount of time required before the global power equals the amount of power required to sustain the digital content decreases. According to the mass-energy-information equivalence principle, the mass of a digital bit of information is 3.19 x 10-38kg. Knowing this and how much information is expected to be created allows the researchers to calculate the mass of the digital infromation. As the rate of digital bit creation increased, the amount of time before half the Earth's mass is converted to digital information decreased. For instance, at a growth rate of 1%, it took roughly 3150 years to produce 1kg of digital information, and 8800 years to convert half of the planets mass into digital information. However, at a rate of 50%, it took 50 years to produce 1 kg of digital information and 225 years to convert half the Earth's mass. Essentially, at a sustained rate of 50% growth, half of the planet's mass will be digital information by the year 2245.


         This study displayed the incredible growth rate of digital information and its need for electrical power. This need for power will lead to environmental and human rights centered issues.