On August 11, 2020 physicist Melvin Vopson published a paper in AIP Advances (aip.scitation.org) predicting what might have been a previously unimaginable doomsday scenario that he called "The Information Catastrophe" in whch
"after ∼350 years from now, the number of bits produced will exceed the number of all atoms on Earth, ∼1050. After ∼300 years, the power required to sustain this digital production will exceed 18.5 × 1015 W, i.e., the total planetary power consumption today, and after ∼500 years from now, the digital content will account for more than half Earth’s mass, according to the mass-energy–information equivalence principle."
Vopson introduced his paper as follows:
"Since the first discovery of the transistor in 1947 and the integrated microchip in 1956, our society has undergone huge technological developments. In just over half a century since the beginning of the silicon revolution, we have achieved unprecedented computing power, wireless technology, Internet, artificial intelligence, and multiple technological advances in display technologies, mobile communications, transportation, and medicine, to name a few. However, none of these could have been possible without mastering the ability to create and store large amounts of digital information. In fact, digital information is a valuable commodity and the backbone of some of the largest hi-tech companies in the world today. Here, we examine the physics of information creation and we determine that, assuming the current growth trends in digital content continue, the world will reach a singularity point in terms of the maximum digital information possibly created and the power needs to sustain it, called the information catastrophe.
IBM estimates that the present rate of digital content production is about 2.5 quintillion digital data bytes produced every day on Earth (2.5 × 1018
bytes or 2.5 × 109
Since 1 byte is made up of 8 bits of digital information, the total number of bits produced on the planet daily is 2 × 1019
. From this, we can easily estimate the current annual rate of digital bits production on Earth to be staggering, Nb
= 7.3 × 1021
bits. Figure 1
shows a chronological list of some of the key technological milestones that enabled the rapid and unstoppable growth of digital information production today."