MicroSD storage madness

Posted in Computers, Random, Stupid trivia, Tech on May 18th, 2013 by Andy

 An giant 19070s hard the size of a man compared to a tiny microSD card sitting in someone's palmThis is a pretty mad picture. I remember the first PC I owned had a 202MB hard drive, a size that just seems laughable compared to that microSD card.

So where does it all end? Will we eventually be able to pack the entire internet into a pinhead? Physics wonks tell us there is a maximum theoretical amount of data you can squeeze into a finite amount of matter,  but it’s a lot. For the microSD card given above it works out to about 567 bits, which is about 6.2 trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion MB.

It turns out that the capacity of hard drives has been growing at an exponential rate over time:

Capacity of hard drives over time. Note the logarithmic scale...

Capacity of hard drives over time. Note the logarithmic scale…

So, if they keep growing at this rate when would that microSD card sized storage device max out? Well, if the biggest microSD you can get currently is 64GB then I make it 132 years. And what could that microSD card fit on it? Well, the entire data storage of Earth in 2013 is around 735 exabytes, and that would take up a smidge over 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of the space on this “perfect” microSD card.

So clearly things can get even smaller, and store even more. Watch this space.


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Why “The Singularity” is bollocks

Posted in Random, Tech on February 20th, 2010 by Andy
A graph of the number of blades per razor over time

The logic behind the "singularity" applied to razor blades. Personally I think there might be something in this one...

There’s a lot of nonsense talked about the supposedly looming “technological singularity“. For the uninitiated, this is based on a principle called Moore’s Law. Broadly speaking, Moore’s Law states that every couple of years, computers get twice as fast for the same cost. The impressive thing is that in the 40 years or so since Gordon Moore first cooked it up, it’s been remarkably accurate, even though the tech has gone through changes he could never had foreseen.

What gets all the singularity nuts excited is the idea of what happens next. According to Moore’s “Law”, computers will get smarter and smarter, until eventually they’re smarter than us, and begin (according to the singularity folks) designing themselves at a rate we couldn’t match. The machines take over, humanity becomes irrelevant, etc, etc.

Except that’s a load of bollocks, and here’s why:

In the real world stuff never continues to grow exponentially forever. Projections based on unbridled exponential growth are the mathematical equivalent of perpetual motion machines. It’s called a Malthusian growth model, after a bloke who made some very dire predictions about world population back in the 19th century. Lucky for us, the complete lameness of this type of model meant that the world didn’t implode under the combined weight of humanity, and the mathematicians went back to the drawing board. The result was a new, better model they called the Logistic model, which acknowledges the idea that even if something can grow at an exponential rate for a while, eventually forces that may have been too small to notice begin to slow the growth rate. This model has been far more successful at accurately modeling real-world processes.

Sure the idea of the singularity is fun, but the less sexy reality is that your wrist watch is unlikely to ever be able to out-smart you, let alone usurp your position at the top of the food chain by creating it’s own army of super-intelligent wrist watches. Moore’s Law will eventually break down, machines will stop getting smarter so quickly, or even stop getting smarter at all.

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