How much information is there in the "information society"?

Martin Hilbert
2012 Significance  
We know our brave new world is being transformed by data. But how much more of it is there than before? Martin Hilbert explores, and finds huge untapped capacity to process information. During recent decades the world was swamped with technologies that enable us to store, communicate and compute information in an unprecedented order of magnitude. Social scientists from all disciplines have been relentless in pointing out that this has led us from the industrial to the information society,
more » ... s information moved into the center of social, economic, political and cultural organization and development. And indeed, we can see the effects of digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) everywhere. We know that the digitization of information stocks and flows has been and still is the driver of economic productivity, the lynchpin for the introduction of transparency and efficiency gains in governmental bureaucracies, the key for cost savings in health reforms, leading in the modernization of education, and that the mobile phone even changes the way families coordinate and the internet how young people date and fall in love. Despite the omnipresence of the information age, there is a surprising lack of information about the amount of information in the information society. This is in stark contrast with the fact that humankinds desire to quantify information has a long history. Aristotle's student Demetrius (367 BC-ca. 283 BC) was asked to organize the Library of Alexandria in order to quantify "how many thousand books
doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2012.00584.x fatcat:e4dknvrydvdmjhyoidhcfx2piy