Limitless Capacity for Data Storage in the Universe?
“If you think we’ve seen massive technology advances in the last 10 years, the next 10 will be like 1,000 years” — Jason Bradbury.
At a recent lecture, The Gadget Show’s Jason Bradbury presented his prediction that the same amount of human progress made during the past 1,000 years, could be witnessed again within the next 10 years. Our advancement in technology is increasing at an exponential rate, as new technology makes the next round of technological advances possible.
I have also recently enjoyed the TV series Silicon Valley, which is set around a start-up company that creates a new highly efficient lossless compression algorithm. The compression algorithm has many practical purposes from high quality, low bandwidth video streaming to enterprise and cloud data storage.
This is the first time I have written about some of the ideas that I often think about. Some ideas may all have already been proven as possible or impossible, I just don’t know, but I am interested in learning more. I must confess that I am not a Physicist, but I do know about Computer Science. There is so much to learn and understand about Computers and our Universe, all competing for same finite amount of time.
“Is the moon there when nobody looks?” — Albert Einstein.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” — Unknown.
“Observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it….We compel [the electron] to assume a definite position…. We ourselves produce the results of measurements.” — Pascual Jordan.
“Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.” — IBM.
When these quotes are read individually in separate contexts, they are all interesting in their own right. What interests me is when they are all read within one context, including the ideas about our data growth explosion and compression. Is our quest for data creation and storage harming the Universe?
For the first time in the history of the Universe, we are organising and arranging electrons and photons in specific and exact patterns. We are storing vast quantities of data within the smallest physical footprint and using compression and deduplication techniques to further decrease that physical footprint. We have developed checksums to allow for accurate matching and verification of the information we store.
It may be possible that the Universe has it’s own compression and deduplication techniques for maintaining the state of the Universe. Our attempts to create complex and unique patterns may be dramatically increasing the Quantum footprint of the Universe.
The ability to do experiments to test consistency within our Universe has until recently been restricted to a relatively small number of people, but the widespread use of computers has changed that. It is now possible for any person on the planet with a computer to compare and examine a pattern of electrons or photons using a simple checksum algorithm. Most computer systems automatically and regularly check information using checksums without the user’s knowledge.
As the human brain is in theory a member of the same Universe that we continuously explore, is it possible that the Universe uses techniques of simplification, filtering, or other rules that prevent us from observing an inconsistent or unrefined experience? Are there any tricks or shortcuts that we may not be aware of that allow the Universe to function beyond our perception?
It is interesting to think of the sun as a method of managing activity levels within the Universe, reinforcing day and night, and therefore controlling the majority of people on the planet, scheduling their time slice of active perception of the Universe. Is this to mitigate against any limiting factors that may restrict the Universe?
We are both increasing our human population and precise control of the Universe’s building blocks at an unprecedented rate, but have no understanding of whether there is a saturation point for either concurrent examination and perception of the Universe, or the precise alignment to allow us to store, communicate, and process our data.
If there was some form of degradation in examination or perception of the Universe, would we be able to detect and test for it? If time itself slowed down, would this be relative to all other aspects of the Universe? A collective slowing of time is likely to only be observable from outside the Universe.
Does an object actually exist in the Universe if no one is looking at it? In the modern world of global communications, I am able to run a computer in an empty locked room and interact with it from the other side of the world. If the truth is that it doesn’t exist unless it is being perceived, then this raises the question as to where the computer is relative to it’s surroundings.
The idea that I find most disturbing is that we are able to perceive the Universe with only the senses that make up the human body and any devices that allow us to extend our senses. As an example of this, night vision goggles allow us to see infrared light, part of the light spectrum that is usually invisible to humans. There may be so much within the Universe that if we could perceive it, we may not be comfortable with it.
Still, the biggest question on my mind is about our data storage. As our ability to create increasingly complex patterns of electrons and photons has recently exploded, there is a possibility that this could cause adverse effects or a influence evolution within the Universe.
The weather and all living organisms are controlled within the same Universe, and if certain equilibriums must be maintained in the Universe, how would the Universe respond to a threat?
Are there any links between the changes in our weather patterns or the extinction of species, for example, that may be trying to create a balance between complexity with the Universe? It may also be possible that the Universe has had to experience some evolutionary change in order to support us. As our computers become more complex, could our mental abilities be collectively reduced as a direct response to the greater activity within the Universe?
As the Internet expands to cover the globe, it allows the potential for every person and device to interact and examine every other device on the planet. This level of examination of the Universe has increased at an unprecedented rate, and there may be an upper limit to how much of the Universe can be concurrently examined. The likelihood is that we may never know or that we are living in a Universe of limitless ability.