[MUSIC] “This episode is brought to you by Lynda.com” [MUSiC] We all use technology but do we understand
how it works? Consider a grain of rice. It’s not much of
a bite, but imagine if it was a byte. Our computers deal in a language of 1s and
0s to store their information and compute their instructions.
Eight of these 1 and 0 bits make a byte, and a thousand of those make a kilobyte, and a
thousand of those make a megabyte. But today we commonly deal in a currency even
larger, like gigabytes and terabytes. Although we don’t even understand how astronomically
huge they really are. But consider this: a terabyte of seconds is
32,000 years! We’re quickly moving far beyond these scales
to even larger ones, like petabytes, just one of which could cover the entire island
of Manhattan. Did you know that all the videos on YouTube are about 500 petabytes? Whereas companies like Google store up to 10 exabytes of data.
We are saving so much, in fact, that it’s becoming a serious challenge to even deal
with. [MUSIC] It’s estimated as many books were printed
in the first 50 years after the Gutenberg printing press as scribes had written in all
the previous 1,200. Today, on the other hand, we double our store of information every 2
or 3 years. Consider that in 2007, all the data we had
ever saved–and I mean everything– was estimated at 300 exabytes.
By 2013 that number had grown to 1,200 exabytes. The total amount of data on Earth, since the
dawn of civilization, quadrupled in just six years. This acceleration, will no doubt continue
to accelerate. The radio telescopes that make up the Square
Kilometer Array will generate an exabyte of astronomical data every four days. In several years we’ll probably live in
a world that deals in zettabytes, one of which, on our rice scale, would fill the Pacific
Ocean. This isn’t about Moore’s Law, the exponential
growth of computing hardware power, it’s about data: BIG data. While much of it will be useless, or at least
hard to organize, this quantity of data will lead to changes in the quality of how we live
and understand our world, probably in ways that we can’t imagine. Consider this cave painting. Its creation
was pretty slow and it contains a limited amount of information.
But consider this photograph. It was faster to make and contains much more
detail. But once we could capture that horse’s motion,
our observations became even more meaningful, but they also consisted of more data.
At first, only 12 or 24 images. But as we increase our resolution, dividing
that experience into smaller amounts of time and detail, extracting more information, suddenly
we create a ton of data to deal with. But maybe big data is in our DNA. Literally.
Sequencing the first human genome, reading just about every letter, cost roughly $3 billion
dollars in 2001. Today, the same sequencing only costs about $1000, cheap enough that
it might soon be cheaper to sequence a genome than to store one on a hard drive, tape drive,
or magnetic storage device. Beyond the challenges of processing and analyzing
all this data, which are huge, we have a more practical problem. Where are we gonna keep
it all? 100 years from now, it’s estimated we’ll
be storing 42 yottabytes of data every year. Using technology that companies like the Google
use today, we’d need enough data centers to cover the surface area of 12 Jupiters. But DNA itself might hold the answer. Harvard
researchers have been able to write entire books to DNA, and the molecule has the potential
to hold petabytes of data in just a few grams of genetic material. That doesn’t explain how we’ll read it,
write it, or even store it, but to deal with the coming data deluge, we will need
something new. It might give a whole new definition to… “saving
the world.” Stay curious.