Social Age, Exabyte Age
An exabyte is one quintillion bytes—a billion gigabytes. It seems like only yesterday, just when we had learned how many bits were in a byte, that we were suddenly asked to learn about megabytes and gigabytes. Now we need to keep track of exabytes!
IDC said that as of 2007, the digital universe was 281 exabytes in size.23 IDC predicts that the digital universe will reach nearly 3,000 exabytes by 2010 (3,000,000,000,000 gigabytes). This is actually a conservative estimate, which excludes specialized data from scientific experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider and digital telescopes that generate several exabytes per week.24
A computer-age pioneer, Frederick Brooks, Jr., looked back with nostalgia on his early, slower-paced years in the industry and forward with anticipation of the bright future ahead:
- When I was a graduate student in the mid-1950s, I could read all the journals and conference proceedings; I could stay current in all the disciplines. Today my intellectual life has seen me regretfully kissing subdiscipline interests goodbye one by one, as my portfolio has continuously overflowed beyond mastery. Too many interests, too many exciting opportunities for learning, research, and thought. What a marvelous predicament! Not only is the end not in sight, the pace is not slackening. We have many future joys.25
Brooks penned those words in 1994. Much has happened since then. Not only has the pace “not slackened,” but an exponential acceleration in knowledge has forced us to rethink almost everything about the ways we learn, interact with each other, and get our jobs done.