Information Pleas: A Calculated Expectation of Catastrophe

Physics knowledge can lead an energetic, too-voluminously-informed person to have real and/or imagined worries — massive worries — about the future. This new study, published in digital form, may or may not make that clear.

The study is: “The Information Catastrophe,” Melvin M. Vopson [formerly Dr. Vopsaroiu], AIP Advances, vol. 10, no. 085014, 2020. (Thanks to Tim Radford for bringing this to our attention.) The author, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, explains:

Currently, we produce ∼1021 digital bits of information annually on Earth. Assuming a 20% annual growth rate, we estimate that after ∼350 years from now, the number of bits produced will exceed the number of all atoms on Earth, ∼1050. After ∼300 years, the power required to sustain this digital production will exceed 18.5 × 1051 W, i.e., the total planetary power consumption today, and after ∼500 years from now, the digital content will account for more than half Earth’s mass, according to the mass-energy–information equivalence principle. Besides the existing global challenges such as climate, environment, population, food, health, energy, and security, our estimates point to another singular event for our planet, called information catastrophe….

These issues are valid, regardless of the future developments in data storage technologies. In terms of digital data, the mass–energy–information equivalence principle formulated in 2019 has not yet been verified experimentally, but assuming this is correct, then in not the very distant future, most of the planet’s mass will be made up of bits of information.