How Much Information Is There?

Berkeley has an interesting study from 2003 that looks at how much information is being produced in the world. The results are pretty amazing.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Each year the world produces 800 MB of data per person. It would take approximately 30 feet of shelf space to hold that amount of information in books.
  • The amount of data produced each year would fill 37,000 libraries the size of the Library of Congress.
  • 7% of the new data is stored on film.  0.01% is stored on paper. 0.002% is stored on optical media.  The rest is stored on hard drives and other forms of magnetic media.
  • The amount of information that flows (through radio, television, telephones, internet, etc.) is 3 to 4 times the amount produced per year.
  • 98% of the information flow was through telephone networks.
  • 70 million hours of radio broadcasts were newly created out of the total 320 million hours that were broadcast.
  • 31 million hours of television broadcasts were newly created out of a 123 million hours total.
  • Instant messaging generates 750 GB per day.
  • Each month, the average American adult:
    • Spends 16 hours on the phone
    • Listens to 90 hours of radio
    • Watches 131 hours of television
    • Spends 100 hours per month on the internet (25 at home 75 at work)

After looking at these figures, it is no wonder we can’t keep up with all the new information thrown our way. In Information Anxiety, the author points out that a single issue of The New York Times, contains more information that the average person from the 17th century was likely to encounter during their entire lifetime!


  1. Ezra says

    This reading is rather interesting….in my line of work I spend 71/2 hours staring at a computer screen reading through webpages….not only that I can listen to a radio program using my headphones, also able to make free calls, send internet text messages to mobile phones, see what my colleagues are doing on their computers and stlll manages to have several other websites on. It does make for quite a mass of information when it boils down to the nitty gritty of things….

  2. Dr. V. Aboites says

    I would like to see the increase in world information plotted against time. From 20 centuries ago till now. I guess it should be an exponential. Could somebody please tell me where can I get the information to do this graph?

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