The Natural Selection of Useful Data – Darwinism, the Internet, and Hard Drives

“Waste is Good”

So says the Gordon Gecko of data tech, Chris Anderson, in his July 2009 Wired Article of the same title.  His article goes on to state “Technology is becoming too cheap to meter.  So stop metering.  It’s time to harness the power of abundance.”

Using examples such as the Tsunami of junk videos on YouTube (“Making the World Safe for Cat Videos”), Anderson presents analogies from nature to make his case for promoting data waste.  If you look at the number of fertilized fish eggs produced .vs the number of fish actually making it to the end of their life cycle, you will see the ratio of survival is almost too small to calculate.  One in a million fish eggs actually finds its way to being a fish. 

So why bother worrying about waste?  Darwin says it is the survival of the fittest, so let DNA develop from the data and file survivors that will make the species stronger.  

Thus goes Anderson’s case for supporting waste data.  If you can go to Amazon and search the cost and size of hard drives, you can now get 1Terabyte network attached drives for under $125.  A terabyte of storage for $125….  So why not back up every piece of data you have ever created, downloaded, or spawned through runaway rogue code? 

I remember all too well my own experiences trying to sift through files and files of data, only to try and remove enough junk to get around “disk full” errors.  The time I spent cleaning and maintaining hard disks, files of floppies (for those of you who do not know what a floppy disk is, check Wikipedia… Old age is not pleasant), and suffering through ensuring I could travel with enough capacity on my computer… Those days are over.

With my 500 Gigabyte drive at home, I can backup pretty much everything I have ever recorded to a disk.  With Multi-Terabyte home system drives popping up, I will hopefully be able to continue filling drives with whatever junk I need for a long time into the future. I will never use 99.99% of the files on the drives, but who cares?  As Anderson so eloquently states, “we have a very developed sense of the morality of waste.”  But, on the other hand, “nature wastes life in the search of better life.”

Thus of those terabytes of wasted disk space that cost less than $125 per whack, possibly 100 megabytes contain that gem of data I may need at some time 15 years in the future. We don’t know.

Associated Content states there may be in excess of 100 million videos available on YouTube. Nielsen claims there may be more than 5.5 billion YouTube videos downloaded a month.  If we wanted to view YouTube content 24 hours a day, we would probably never even approach viewing 1% of the available video during the course of an adult life.

I s this all wasted disk and network space?  For me, yes, for the other 2 billion Internet users around the world – well, I am sure there are a large number of people who actually do spend their entire day watching cat videos.

John Savageau, Long Beach

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

2 Responses to The Natural Selection of Useful Data – Darwinism, the Internet, and Hard Drives

  1. Kindra Lindbloom says:

    Sure…now you tell me. I just bought a new second laptop to serve as a backup for my first laptop because I want the mobility backed up as well as the data when the first laptop has to go to the shop. I could have lived with the netbook for a hundred or more dollars less and enjoyed the daily option of even greater mobility! I guess I should read your blog more often…

    • johnsavageau says:

      Yeah… I noticed Processor Magazine (processor.com) also had a similar article on netbooks, digging a bit deeper into the topic of performance for corporate users. Looks like they did a couple additioonal interviews with both vendors and corporate IT managers. For what it is, I have nothing really negative to say about the netbooks.

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