When plastic was invented, the invention was considered such a boon. After several decades, we realized we overdid the usage that led to polluted dumping grounds and oceans. When coal and other fossil fuels were discovered, we again overdid the usage that led to air pollution and global warming. When email was invented, we thought it was helping us to save paper and trees. The infrastructure needed to run an email service still needs power – somewhere trees must be indirectly being harmed. Then we realized that coal was not good, and we started to move towards renewables. Based on the past patterns – where something looks good but turns out to be not so good later – I suspect that we may see problems with renewables also in the future. Perhaps solar panels will cover too much of the earth’s surface and with no sunlight directly touching the earth, new side effects and phenomenon would be discovered. The fundamental underlying problem being that too much of anything is bad.
Applying this to the amount of data we have started to generate, which at present stands at more than 5 exabytes (or 1mn TB or 1bn GB) per ten minutes! This is the amount which earlier got generated over a period of 10 years (from 2003 to 2013). Now the same amount of data gets produced every ten minutes! Obviously you need to store the data and also transmit it. So far the storage infrastructure has been able to keep pace with the data, however at one point it could possibly peak out and struggle. The Internet highways get choked up at times, similar to the freeways which have seen the same fate within a hundred years of invention of the assembly line. We are already building data centers under the oceans and exploring the potential of using DNA as a data store. We know that data has proven to be very advantageous as a scientific method that can be applied to any problem space. However we are not applying the same principles to understand the patterns of challenges we have faced in the past. At one point, there will be so much data that we may have new undata or data recycling disciplines. Possibly concepts of data pooling coming in. We might see liberals advocating a data footprint tax similar to the carbon tax.
Do you think this is a far-fetched thought?