Tommy, can you store me?: … Data overload, personified.

“There is no individual, but he does actually represent a couple of real people I know who are sort of outer fringe in terms of use of digital things.”

Rothnie thought up Tommy to illustrate just how fast the world, and especially the United States, is creating data, because it is tough to believe, just as it is tough to understand where the data goes, who owns it and who manages it. “We are all drowning in a sea of information. The challenge is to learn to swim in that sea, rather than drown in it,” opined Peter Lyman and Hal Varian, two University of California, Berkeley professors whose 2000 study, How Much Information, was funded by EMC.

Most people are not nearly as prolific as Tommy, but they are learning.

If everything every human being has ever said were transcribed and digitized, it would be about 5 exabytes of data, an exabyte being a million terabytes. The world is creating about 1-2 exabytes of new data each year, the Berkeley study showed.

Moreover, all those figures are for original content, which, thanks to rampant copying, is only about a fifth of what is out there. Store that on your disk and spin it.

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