Physics: The information catastrophe –

The mathematician and physicist Melvin M. Vopson has for the American Institute of Physics (AIP)what happens if mankind produces ever increasing amounts of information and would also want to receive all of it for posterity.

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He assumes an annual rate of increase of 20 percent more information per year. Currently around 10 to the power of 21 bits of information are produced by people each year. In about 350 years we would have about 1050 Bits of data produced – more bits than there are atoms on earth. However, in the three hundredth year, one would need a larger amount of energy to produce the data than is consumed worldwide per year today – 18.5 × 1015th Watt. And according to the equivalence of mass and energy, after about 500 years half of the earth’s mass would consist of the accumulated information.

For this reason, writes Vopson, one can certainly do “in addition to the existing global challenges such as climate, environment, population, nutrition, health, energy and security” of a “another unique event for our planet” speak, “which is referred to as an information disaster”.

He justifies the fact that the data is kept at all with today’s view of digital data. “Indeed, digital information is a valuable commodity and the backbone of some of the largest high-tech companies in the world”he writes.

But it can be assumed, explains Vopson, that outdated information will be deleted again and again. Therefore one can assume that the net growth rate could be only one percent per year. But even then the amount of data would be 1050 Bits reached after about 6,000 years. This number is important because even if a single bit only requires the volume of an atom to be stored, the information memory is larger than the earth – the one from 1050 Atoms. “This leads to what we define as an information disaster”, writes Vopson.

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