U.S. Households Consume 3.6 Zettabytes Bytes of Information Annually

By December 09, 2009

U.S. households consumed 3.6 zettabytes (360,000,000,000 trillion bytes) of information in 2008, according to UC San Diego’s How Much Information? (PDF) project. That's more than twenty times what all the hard drives in the world could hold at once. The average American consumes 34 gigabytes and 100,000 words of information a day. That amount of information would fill one-and-a-half single-layer Blue-ray disks, and the amount of words consumed per day is more than the length of a standard novel (around 80,000 words). That’s pretty incredible.

Also incredible is that only 2 percent of this information comes from the internet; it is primarily from television and video games, which are the largest source of information (the amount of data needed for graphics, etc.) and are played by 80 percent of Americans.

The annual growth rate of bytes consumed is 5.4 percent, according to the report. The consumption rate is growing much slower than Moore’s Law, thanks in part to TV not changing formats for so long. While TV consumption increased over time, the amount of data consumption stayed the same during the standard-TV era.

Most of our lives are spent receiving data. American’s spent 11.8 hours per day receiving information in 2008 (of that time 41 percent is spent watching TV).

“Considering that on average we work for almost three hours a day and sleep for seven, this means that three-quarters of our waking time in the home is receiving information, much of it electronic,” according to the report’s authors.

I highly recommend digging into the How Much Information?, as it’s full of tons of interesting and valuable information.

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