Physicist from the University of Portsmouth Melvin Wopson published a study according to which the increase in the amount of digital information on Earth will lead to disaster.
Wopson’s research is based on the theory of the German-American physicist Rolf Landauer: according to Landauer’s principle, digital information has a physical nature due to the peculiarities of thermodynamics, and the smallest unit of information – a bit – corresponds to a certain amount of energy.
With this principle, Landauer wanted to calculate the power consumption limit for digital computing.
However, Wopson went further and suggested that each bit not only corresponds to energy, but also has a mass that can be measured. Thus, in theory, the mass of a device that stores information should increase slightly when it is fully loaded with data.
In his new work, Melvin Wopson took as a basis the data from IBM, according to which every year about a sextillion (10 to the power of 21) digital bits of information are created on Earth.
The author of the study calculated that if the amount of this information increases by 20% annually, in 350 years there will be more digital bits on Earth than atoms in the Universe.
According to Wopson, the amount of energy that will be needed to maintain this amount of information will exceed the amount of energy that is currently being produced throughout the Earth.
The physicist also calculated the mass that, according to his theory, all this information will occupy: the study indicates that if the amount of digital data increases by 50% annually, in 225 years all digital content will account for half the mass of our planet.
Of course, Wopson’s assumption about the physical nature of information has not yet been experimentally confirmed, all calculations are performed only in theory, and the concept itself is abstract.