Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The whole world in your hands

Peter Kaufman, Statistics to contemplate, from Google, PMT Forum, January 19, 2006.

Yesterday I attended a meeting sponsored by Google at the New York Public Library in which Google's Jim Gerber presented the following statistics. Since 1982, the costs and size requirements of computer processing have gone down by a factor of 4,500; computer memory, by a factor of 45,000; and computer disk space by a factor of 3.6 million. If this trend continues, as it surely will, he said, then an iPod, or a device its size, will be able to hold a year's worth of video (8,760 hours) by 2012, all the music ever created by 2018, and all the content ever created (in all media) by 2020.

This will be roughly when my three children will be (if I let them out of the house at all)....


  • This kind of memory capacity is coming.  I want to let my fantasy horses run, but I have to clear some underbrush first.  Capacity is not content.  The fact that a device could hold all the content ever created doesn't mean that it actually will hold all that content.  It doesn't matter whether it's the size of an iPod or the size of a city bus.  But if it did hold all that content, then it's not likely to provide free access to it.  (As we've noticed for a couple of centuries, technology improves faster than copyright law, even if anti-DRM hackers also work faster than pro-DRM hackers.)  Fortunately, these caveats don't stop my fantasy horses from running and I hope they don't stop yours.
  • Think about the difference between free online access to all the content you'll ever need and free offline access to all the content you'll ever need.  Online access has its advantages because the content will always be current and we'll be in real-time contact with other users who have the same access to the same content.  Offline access has its advantages because we won't always have connectivity, we won't always want connectivity, and lots of copies keeps stuff safe.  Because all our work for free online access will also help the cause of free offline access, we don't have to choose between the two.  We just have to start thinking about them.