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11 Jun 2014 : How much information's created when I stare out the window? #
This afternoon I received an advertising email from the Viglen Marketing team. It boldly repeats the oft-quoted statement of Eric Schmidt from Google's Atmosphere convention in 2010:

"Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were 5 exabytes of information created. We now create 5 exabytes every 2 days."

Every time I read this quote my faith in human intelligence dies a little more. It's an old quote now, but it still riles me: it's such a patently absurd statement. I can understand Dr. Schmidt making it for the sake of theatre, but please don't repeat it as if it's fact.

There have been far more detailed and convincing critiques of the claim than I'm able to offer, but I wouldn't even extend the benefit of the doubt that these lavish on Google's Executive Chairman. The fact is, the same amount of information is being created now as has ever been the case. If you want to some how massage the quote into plausibility you have to narrow its meaning beyond recognition. Perhaps it means data recorded, rather than information created? Perhaps it only means by humans? Perhaps it means only in sharable form? When the information is useful? On Earth? When someone is watching?

How much information is there in a cave painting? I'd wager more than Google explicitly stores in all of its data warehouses. How much information gets sucked into a black hole every second? I can't even be bothered to think about it. It's just the basic difference between discrete and continuous stuff.

Frankly, it probably means "data that has been recorded permanently by humans in discrete form". So why not say so?

This morning I was relatively happy; now I'm just annoyed.

Stupid quotes that shouldn't be repeated


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