If Americans were ever to develop a case of information overload, now would certainly be the time. However, according to the data, there isn’t any sign of that happening soon.
A University of California, San Diego, study released in December 2009 reports that Americans consumed information for about 1.3 trillion hours in 2008. That comes to about 12 hours a day.
The amount of data they consumed over the course of a year totaled 3.6 zetabytes (a million million gigabytes).
This sounds mind-boggling, but what does it mean? Broken down into quantities that are easier to grasp, the figure comes to about 34 gigabytes a day.
The numbers are high, and they are growing. The study, “How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers,” estimates that byte consumption has risen 350 percent, or about 5.4 percent a year, since IBM launched its first PC in 1981.
Also of note is the breakdown of the kinds of data that is consumed. It should come as little surprise that Americans still spend 41 percent of their time watching TV. However, television accounts for less than a third of the total bytes consumed.
That’s where the computer games come in. The study reports that computer and video games account for about 2,000 Exabytes, or about 55 percent of all information bytes, consumed in the home over the course of a year.
Other studies confirm the trend. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 68 percent of American households play computer or video games, and 37 percent of heads of households play games on wireless devices.
The trend will only continue. Citing Moore’s Law, which describes the exponential growth in the capacity of computer’s to process data, the UC San Diego study points out that, at 5.4 percent a year, data consumption was far outpaced by the growth in computer capacity, which averaged a whopping 30 percent over the same 30-year time frame. Perhaps it will only be a matter of time before the consumption of data matches that pace, but contractors in low-voltage data transfer definitely will have work if these trends continue.