Is there a limit to how much time people will spend on Facebook?
If you are of a certain age and remember the first office computers that were widely available (complete with 5.25” disks) you will readily appreciate just how much more information we have packed into computers as the years have gone by.
And what is rather amazing is that instead of getting bigger, the more information these computers have held, the smaller they get. So now the average mobile phone has far far far far (multiplied by 10000) more processing power than the computer that was used in the first moon landing.
Of course, that computer actually crashed and the astronauts had to land the craft manually, but even so, if only they had had a Samsung Galaxy they would have landed on auto. Unless the battery caught fire, of course.
What I wondered, however, was whether this ability to hold more and more and more data in smaller and smaller objects will continue forever. So in a moment of madness I decided to look up the limit to the amount of data one can put in a memory stick, and whether there is an absolute limit.
The answer I got was
where AplApl is the planck area ∼10−70m2∼10−70m2. For a 1cc1cc volume this gives Smax∼1066Smax∼1066 bits
I have no idea what any of that means, but the long and the short seems to be that there is an absolute limit as to how much data one can squeeze into a chip. Our technology has been increasing year on year but ultimately we will reach a natural boundary that means we can’t get more information in a specific space.
That could then mean that instead of getting smaller, phones will start to get bigger, and indeed so could computers.
This made me wonder if I ought to increase the capacity of Admiral Storage Facility so that we can then start storing all the things that people can no longer store digitally.
However, when I put this to a couple of colleagues (who maintain the habit of storing copies of their original research with me in sealed and signed envelopes, just to prove that they did the research long before anyone else), they said that I was looking at the wrong question.
Apparently instead of that convoluted set of equations I wrote above, I should have been thinking about Moore’s Law which says that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.
Actually I don’t know what that means either, but it has the suggestion built into it that this also can only continue for a set amount of time.
All of this led me to think about Facebook (although now I come to look at this sentence I am not sure why). Every day (at least according to the web site BrandWatch) Facebook adds 500,000 new users. Now that is 182 million new users a year.
From this I was just about to work out how long it would be before everyone on the planet had a Facebook account when I also read that 81 million of Facebook’s accounts are fake accounts – that is people pretending to be someone they are not.
Which means that quite possibly the number of Facebook accounts will go on growing forever and it will not be long before we reach the stage that there are more fake Facebook accounts than real accounts.
Now the average amount of time that people spend on Facebook is around 20 minutes a day – but that number is affected by the fact that there are huge numbers of people who have set up a Facebook account but really don’t do anything with it, while there is another group who seem to spend all day on Facebook.
Indeed walking along the pavement near where I live has become a dangerous activity because most of the people walking the other way are looking down at their phones rather than looking forward at where they are going. (I also read that in some cities traffic light indicators are now being put on pavements to stop pedestrians stepping straight into traffic because of their focus on their phones.)
What’s more, if there is a limit to the amount of data that we can store, with Facebook and Google growing at an incredible speed, there is every chance we will reach that in the near future – at which point everything will stop.
Over a cup of coffee I put this doomsday scenario to one of my customers who seemed completely unphased by the news. Carefully putting his cup back on its saucer (we do have cups and saucers here, not mugs, I like to keep up standards), he looked me in the eye and said, “Why do you think I store things here?”
A fair answer I thought, and one which I shall bear in mind when creating future advertising.
Admiral: for the moment the internet gets full.
Admiral Document Storage