World Wide Waste with Gerry McGovern

Dr. Melvin Vopson 'The environmental weight of data'

John Carter
January 17, 2023
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Dr. Melvin Vopson 'The environmental weight of data'

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Dr Melvin Vopson is a truly fascinating character and deep thinker. A physicist, he is the proposer of the mass-energy-information equivalence principle, has identified a technological singularity called the Information Catastrophe and has discovered the second law of information dynamics. Melvin is the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of the world's first Information Physics Institute. His current scientific interests revolve around theoretical and experimental studies involving all aspects of information physics. I started by asking Melvin about his theory that information has its own weight, a weight independent of the device it is stored on.

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[00:00:00] Gerry McGovern: Dr. Melvin Von is a truly fascinating character and deep thinker, a physicist. He's the proposer of the mass energy information equivalence principle, has identified a technological singularity called the information catastrophe, and has discovered the second law of information dynamic. Melvin is the co-founder and chief scientific officer of the World's First Information Physics Institute.

[00:00:39] Gerry McGovern: His current scientific interests revolve around theoretical and experimental studies involving all aspects of information physics. I started by asking Melvin about his theory that information has its own weight await [00:01:00] independent of the device it is stored on.

[00:01:03] Dr Melvin Vopson: I guess you're referring to my 2019 article, um, entitled, uh, mass Energy Information Equivalence Principle.

[00:01:10] Dr Melvin Vopson: And in that, uh, in that paper, I, uh, proposed, um, what we call now the fifth, um, state of matter, um, as being information itself. And this is based on the hypothesis that information would have a finite non-zero mass, um, addressed. Uh, when is, uh, in equilibrium, uh, and when is storing information. Um, where is this, um, idea coming from, essentially?

[00:01:45] Dr Melvin Vopson: And what are the, the, the basis to formulate this principle? It kind of goes back to 1960s. Um, the emergence of, um, digital technologies, digital information, digital data storage, [00:02:00] and the work of, um, land ware. Who was essentially the first? Um, well, Bri Brelo, uh, proposed in 19, uh, maybe I'm wrong, but I think it was 1951 and, uh, or 1953.

[00:02:14] Dr Melvin Vopson: And in 1961, that was followed up by Landa Ware in very similar studies. But this idea is known as land wear principle. And, um, it states that information is, um, physical and how, uh, Landa wear, um, concluded this, he, um, took a look at, um, computational processes and computational technologies and realized the, that these are part of, um, the universe.

[00:02:44] Dr Melvin Vopson: They're made of matter, they're made of atoms, uh, like everything else, and they're part of the universe. And they should be subjected to the, the same laws of as lo laws of physics, the laws of the universe, and including the laws of thermodynamics. [00:03:00] So, um, in thermodynamics, we, we know that a process that is irreversible, um, must dissipate energy.

[00:03:10] Dr Melvin Vopson: So this, um, irreversibility, uh, and energy dissipation goes, go hand in hand. What landauer did he, um, realized that? Logical irreversibility is the same as, um, thermodynamic irreversibility, in other words, um, a logical computational process, uh, that, um, is irreversible, should behave like a thermodynamic, irreversible process.

[00:03:37] Dr Melvin Vopson: And by irreversible process, I have, for example, I have a coffee in front of me now is, uh, very hot. Within a couple of minutes, you will get colder and colder. At some point, you will reach, um, thermodynamic equilibrium to my office, and you'll have the room temperature exactly as, uh, the, um, environment of the office.

[00:03:57] Dr Melvin Vopson: This process is, I, we call this process [00:04:00] irreversible because the coffee will never go back to its initial, initial state. Uh, by itself. It will never get to the initial temperature becoming hot, without any external work, without any external, um, energy added, uh, to the system. From, um, outside, uh, the system.

[00:04:20] Dr Melvin Vopson: So this process, call it irreversible and um, it dissipated energy because the coffee dissipated the internal energy and the heat, um, contained in the coffee to the environment. So land ware suggested that, um, um, computational processes, um, which are irreversible, should dissipate energy. And one simple example, there are many other examples, but one simple example of a computational process, um, which is irreversible is the deletion of a bit of information, an information bit leaving up, um, outside, um, the mechanism by which you store that bit, whether it is optically stored or magnetically stored, [00:05:00] or um, solely some kind of solid state technology.

[00:05:02] Dr Melvin Vopson: A bit of information once deleted, uh, is irreversible. So it changes the entropy of the local system. There is. Process and it needs to dissipate a bit of energy. And this is called the land ware, um, bound or the ware principle. He worked out. What is the value of that energy? A room temperature is about 20 million electron volts.

[00:05:27] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, I can tell you for, um, uh, for a bit of information. So the fact that information is physical goes back to much older, um, studies, um, from Landa Ware and, uh, Bri and, um, a few other people including John Wheeler. Uh, what I did in 2019, uh, I, I asked myself the question, um, if a bit of information is physical and you can detect, uh, by the way, this has been experimentally proven in a number [00:06:00] of, um, recent studies.

[00:06:01] Dr Melvin Vopson: So Landover principle is a fact, uh, is not a theory. So I said, um, if a bit of information. Is physical and you can detect that energy associated to the bit of information when you erase it. What happened to that energy? When the bit is addressed at equilibrium storing information, uh, what is that energy going?

[00:06:26] Dr Melvin Vopson: And the only conclusion I, I could come up with is that that energy condenses into a small mass. And this is using Einstein's, um, special activity and the, the famous energy equals mc square, um, relation, which is a consequence of special relativity, which converts mass and the energy and shows that energy and mass are indeed equivalent.

[00:06:50] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, That was the birth of, um, the Mass Energy Information equivalent Principle, um, which states that the free, [00:07:00] uh, states of, uh, matter are fully equivalent and, uh, depending on the circumstances, uh, they are in, they can manifest either as mass energy or um, or pure information. So this is, um, in a nutshell, more or less, I'm not sure I answered, um, your, your question.

[00:07:18] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, you are satisfied, but in a nutshell, um, I think this is the, the fundamental basis of this, uh, of this concept. No, you

[00:07:27] Gerry McGovern: did Thank you. And it's, it's, uh, fascinating and, and I think it'll be, it's a kind of mind blowing as well in the sense of, I think so much of the way we understand digital, uh, is immaterial, you know, everything from the cloud, et cetera, that, that we've, this sense that it has no materiality in its existence.

[00:07:53] Gerry McGovern: And I think that has encouraged a lot of, you know, negative behaviors. But [00:08:00] as, as you point out, it requires energy. To store information or to create information or to manipulate, uh, information. And that energy, uh, is associated with, with matter.

[00:08:14] Dr Melvin Vopson: You, you made a few, um, uh, statements there then I, I need to reinforce some of those ideas, um, in, um, in, in a, in a clear manner for, for the, for your audience.

[00:08:26] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, the, the information. In fact, it's quite the opposite actually. The, the, some of the criticism I had is that, um, the, the, the material nature of information, information can be detached from, uh, uh, some kind of material support. So it needs to be stored in some kind of material support. And many of my critics, um, they confuse the mass of information with the mass of the device holding the information.

[00:08:56] Dr Melvin Vopson: In other words, Let's take magnetic data storage, a bit [00:09:00] of information in a magnetic data Storage is a tiny magnetic, um, space or region on the surface of a magnetic nano film, which is magnetized one way or another, up or down, let's say. And we are logically allocate, uh, bit states, zeros one digital states to these magneta magnetization states.

[00:09:21] Dr Melvin Vopson: If it's magnetized up, we say it's maybe a one if it's magnetized. Um, down we say it's a zero. So physicists, which are confined to this materialistic, um, thinking if you want, um, they associate a bit of information with that tiny region of space, which is a magnet magnetized. Volume of material, and they say that's the mass of the beat.

[00:09:48] Dr Melvin Vopson: And of course it has a mass and, um, is nothing special about that. And they associate all the energies involved in writing and storing and stuff with, with the energies consumed to, [00:10:00] um, inver, uh, reverse the magnetization or, or re magnetize that region, uh, or erase that region. Uh, this couldn't be wrong, uh, couldn't be more wrong than this.

[00:10:09] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, it is, it's a total misunderstand, mis misunderstanding of, um, what, uh, information physics tells us what Landover principle is and what my work, um, is about. When I talk about information, I refer to this mathematical construct, these zeros and ones that we, we construct to associate, um, to physical states, but they themselves, Have the mass this up abstract mathematical states.

[00:10:40] Dr Melvin Vopson: If you want this, this is beyond, um, you, you, you, I think you said mind boggling, but I think it's, it goes beyond that because it's a very, very abstract concept. He, he kind of says that the mathematics is, is physical, uh, to, to some degree it, it, this pH constructed [00:11:00] mathematical states of information. These zero and ones, how should I put it in a more clear way?

[00:11:06] Dr Melvin Vopson: If you would be able to create a medium for storage information, digital storage information that is non-material. So you remove completely the necessity of a magnetic film or some kind of flash drive, solid state drive or a optical drive or any kind of medium. If you could store information in a non-material state, let's say in space time fabric, let's say, and then you would.

[00:11:35] Dr Melvin Vopson: Have created a, a medium of information that has mass itself in a non-material medium. So this is what I mean by mass of a bit, completely detached from the physical nature of the medium itself. The device, um, you know, the, the, the electrons, the, the, everything that goes into making these go about and kick and work is [00:12:00] just pure mathematical states.

[00:12:01] Dr Melvin Vopson: The zeros and ones that, um, are physical. Uh, it's a, it's a very abstract idea to, to actually grasp, uh, is, and this is where the biggest, uh, debate is about. Now you mentioned the physicality of, uh, information and, um, the fact that it, it requires energies and is, is true. Um, but, but is it's, It, it's a is besides the kind of concepts I'm discussing in the Mass Energy Information Principle.

[00:12:34] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, yes. We need information to store data, to create data, uh, manipulate data. In fact, we need, um, huge amounts, amounts of information to keep these, uh, hyper servers, uh, data servers running. They need cooling, they need, uh, electricity to run the drives, uh, 24 7. Um, you need information to write in the first place.

[00:12:55] Dr Melvin Vopson: And the amount of information we need are much higher than my estimates because [00:13:00] you have to overcome these huge materialistic, uh, physical states where the information sits and reside. Uh, in my studies, I, I'm not even looking at that. I. Interested in the pure mathematical states that have energy and information.

[00:13:18] Dr Melvin Vopson: Okay.

[00:13:18] Gerry McGovern: So let, let's get a, a definition in there because some people listening to this will probably understand information in a different way. So in, in the dictionary there's two definitions of information, um, one which you have described about physical states, of ones in zero, and of course maybe the more commonly understood.

[00:13:42] Gerry McGovern: Uh, definition of information is, is the transfer of knowledge. You're informing somebody about something, but, but there's, there's a very distinct separation in that definition, isn't there? You, your, your definition of information is, is more about a physical [00:14:00] type of, um, definition. Isn't, isn't that true?

[00:14:05] Dr Melvin Vopson: Yes, Jerry. That's correct. Um, so it is actually a very good suggestion to set a quasi definition if we can, um, in motion. So we have, um, sort of unified framework, um, um, on discussing about information. When I say information, what I mean, I mean, The information defined in Shannon's, um, information theory framework.

[00:14:31] Dr Melvin Vopson: So, uh, cloud Shannon, uh, 1940s, um, he's the father of digital computing. He wrote, um, uh, a seminal paper called the Information Theory. Well, he is not the exact title, but he developed the information theory. And, um, when I talk about information and information states, I strictly, um, refer to Shannon Information Theory Framework.

[00:14:58] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, what is that? Um, [00:15:00] in Shannon's information theory framework, information is defined as a function, a mathematical function, which is, um, linked to the probability of an event to occur or not, or how, how probable is an event to. So, and this is a logarithmic function. It has been introduced by, um, Shannon in 1940s as part of, uh, of his theory.

[00:15:27] Dr Melvin Vopson: And, uh, but what we need to retain from this is the fact that information is, uh, intimately linked to probabilistic nature of, um, events and things and everything in nature. So as soon as you have, um, um, a probability of something to occur, then you can have an information content associated to that event, and you can measure that in beats or some other units, which are given by a base of a log in this, um, [00:16:00] function introduced by, by Shannon.

[00:16:02] Dr Melvin Vopson: So, Of course information can mean different things in different contexts. Um, you can link information to, uh, some degree to uncertainty of an event because uncertainty is linked to the probability of the event. Um, uh, is Inver University proportional to the probability? So you can have, uh, variance of this, this definition.

[00:16:27] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, in my dictionary, I think I found, uh, a simple definition that is facts provided or learned about something. Um, defining information. I mean, um, but, but in my studies and when I refer to information is, um, simply this probabilistic nature of, um, everything and a mathematical function that, uh, measures, um, the amount of information you need.

[00:16:53] Dr Melvin Vopson: You can extract from observing this event with a given probability. Now this is the interesting bit. Now, the, the, the [00:17:00] fact that you can define information like this, um, this is the, the highest level of defining if you want information, because from this, you can redefine everything else in the, in the same framework.

[00:17:15] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, so taking digital information, for example, zero Z one, um, what do they mean? What this is a digital. You can, let's take this podcast. You are recording this podcast, aren't you? So this podcast is going to be our voices, our conversation, everything we communicate here, which represents information projected from our brains, uh, information that we learned, uh, maybe something that we read in this moment.

[00:17:42] Dr Melvin Vopson: Everything that we say, it's some form of information. Through a different definition, let's say as we ordinary people will understand it, uh, it's information. You convert this information into another form of information, which is digital information. You just digitize [00:18:00] everything by recording this onto some kind of digital data storage device.

[00:18:04] Dr Melvin Vopson: And, and then I can go beyond that. This is where I go beyond that and I say, once you did, you convert it to a digital state. The SH kicks in, and I can use Shannon information theory to look at the probabilistic nature of this digital beats and how they occur, and convert this message into a quantity called information in Shannon's information theory framework, and measure it in a specific quantity called the number of.

[00:18:36] Dr Melvin Vopson: So chances are if we go half an hour or one hour, you are gonna have probably a gigabyte of data or a few hundred megabytes of this podcast being recorded and converted into digital information, which can be measured through this concept of Shannon information theory and probabilistic nature in bits.

[00:18:55] Dr Melvin Vopson: So what I, I guess what I'm trying to say is that everything can [00:19:00] be. Redefined in, in this framework, everything.

[00:19:05] Gerry McGovern: So this information of this podcast, we can measure it. You can measure it, uh, based on Shannon Terry as information. It, it doesn't mean that it was an interesting podcast or boring or it's not measuring, you know, whether it was exciting or you know, or sad or it's just measuring.

[00:19:28] Gerry McGovern: It's a kind of ones and zeros and the quantity of those bits.

[00:19:33] Dr Melvin Vopson: This is a very good point. You are, um, um, raising the, in fact, it's a problem I have with the whole information theory. It does. Information theory does not distinguish between random bids, bid states or random information, or it cannot. Resolve the quality of information.

[00:19:57] Dr Melvin Vopson: Should I say it? In other words? If you have, let's say this [00:20:00] podcast becomes 500 megabytes. If you have 500 megabytes of data, which results into no message whatsoever in nothing, when you read out is completely gibberish, random characters that are being generated, uh, making up 500 megabytes, that amount of information will wait.

[00:20:22] Dr Melvin Vopson: Or will have, uh, an identical ma uh, energy content to 500 megabytes of information that can contain maybe the secret of, um, Kennedy assassination or, um, uh, you know, the, the secret of what is dark matter or, um, as you said, um, feelings and, uh, emotions or very exciting things. Um, the quality of information is not captured in this, um, framework, in this information theory.

[00:20:51] Dr Melvin Vopson: You cannot tell whether it is good, whether it's bad, um, what's the quality, which one is better than the other, is [00:21:00] just a volume if you want, or a, a quantity measure in bits. And I do have a problem with this. Uh, I wish I, I would know how. Maybe improve the theory a bit or maybe add, um, add something to it to maybe solve this.

[00:21:17] Dr Melvin Vopson: And

[00:21:17] Gerry McGovern: then the difference, what is the difference between information and data?

[00:21:22] Dr Melvin Vopson: Not very different, uh, is, I think I found an example, um, somewhere if, um, I, I don't remember where I read this. It might be on a, on an article, but the question was posted there and, uh, this, this was the explanation, which I don't entirely agree with that.

[00:21:47] Dr Melvin Vopson: But, um, roughly goes like this, if you have, um, let's say, uh, a McDonald's and, um, somebody sits in a corner and records how many, [00:22:00] how many people enter, um, McDonald's to buy a burger. In a given day and records this information in a database. Okay, that is data. Okay? We call this data so it, it records the data, but if the same person goes on and starts doing some statistical analysis on that dataset by looking at the gender distribution, for example, how many male, female, or how many, um, group by group age, for example, or by hair color, um, doing some kind of analysis and, uh, creating probabilities, uh, of occurring of a specific group age or, or, or gender base or, um, um, looks if you want skin color or other things, um, that becomes information [00:23:00] the moment you start processing the data into, um, this.

[00:23:05] Dr Melvin Vopson: Probabilistic approach, uh, implying the Shannon's functions and the information, um, theory, I would say that that becomes information and you use the data to, um, produce information. However, to me, to me, the data and information are the same thing. They converge to the same thing. When you get down to this probabilistic approach in, within the Shannon Information Theory framework.

[00:23:31] Dr Melvin Vopson: In other words, any information on hard drive or a memory device, um, which is digital, um, uh, we need to distinguish here between analog information and digital information. Uh, the analog information can be reduced to digital states by digitizing. Let's say you take a, you, you take a piece of paper, write your name, write Jerry on the paper, and that is analog information.

[00:23:56] Dr Melvin Vopson: You can put your phone number as well. Did you change the [00:24:00] entropy of that paper and say, yes, you did, but it's, it's not quite, I'm not quite clear how you can use information theory to put a bit content on that analog stay there and what you did. But you can take that piece of paper and scan it and you create a digital image of your information, create it, or you can digitize it by some means, and that becomes digital.

[00:24:24] Dr Melvin Vopson: So, so to me, any data that is digitized, it qualifies for this Shannon Information theory definition of information in terms of probabilistic nature, in terms of the Shannon's function, you know, measuring in bits of information, the content and everything else. Um, but, but you can actually do this on any physical process, on any aspect of our, our everyday life where you can define probabilities.

[00:24:52] Dr Melvin Vopson: You can actually use that framework on anything. So it kind of, everything converges to, [00:25:00] which is maybe why John Wheeler suggested that the, the whole universe, uh, emerges from information in within the universe, um, and including the matter and space time. It's, it's a very powerful idea.

[00:25:14] Gerry McGovern: So tell us Alvin, uh, a little bit at a story of the growth of digital information, digital data, uh, how it has grown, say from, I don't know, the forties to fifties to where it is at now and where it is going, you know, the, the pace of that, that growth.

[00:25:37] Gerry McGovern: Paint us a little bit of a picture of that, please.

[00:25:41] Dr Melvin Vopson: It's quite scary. Um, scary image. You get, uh, a scary glimpse if you start digging into the data and looking at, um, trends. Uh, It's, um, it, in fact, it's, um, it, it raises, um, a number of questions and, um, [00:26:00]extrapolations that I'm gonna touch on, um, in this discussion.

[00:26:03] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, what you need, what we need to understand is, um, we stored information, um, for millennia, essentially on paper or maybe on cave's, writings, and other means or, or letter. We, we wrote, physically wrote information onto something. This has changed in 1996. In 1996. The, this year is a pivotal at, at very critical transition here when the digital storing information on digital, uh, devices became cheaper than paper.

[00:26:40] Dr Melvin Vopson: So writing a letter by hand and. Uh, giving it to somebody by hand, leaving aside the cost of postage and other things, it became more expensive than in terms of the cost of the paper and ink and everything you [00:27:00] add to write a letter. It became more expensive than writing an email or writing the same letter digitally and giving it to somebody digitally.

[00:27:10] Dr Melvin Vopson: This is, it goes back to the gigabyte per dollar cost and, uh, the cost of paper and the cost of physical things. And in 1996, digital information became cheaper than paper for storing data. From that moment on, we transitioned in our entire society into a digital world. Okay. What does it mean? Well, . We bank online, we socialize online.

[00:27:38] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, we produce all the documents, um, digitally. We have all the video, the media, the au, the music, the everything is online. We, um, we, we go to school online that was, uh, highly visible during the pandemic when [00:28:00] everything moved online, all the meetings, all the, the, the teaching and the educational processes moved online.

[00:28:06] Dr Melvin Vopson: We do assess assessing online exams online. Every, everything moved to a digital, um, world, a digital economy if you want. And I have some numbers. We generate every day, 500 million tweets on the planet. 294 billion emails, 4 million gigabytes of Facebook data. 65 billion WhatsApp messages and 720,000 hours of new content added on YouTube, um, every day.

[00:28:46] Dr Melvin Vopson: And there is no, there is no end to this. There is no limit because nobody wants to delete any data. I mean, I'm not sure about you, but I, in the past I used [00:29:00] to have a, a special suitcase, a special box with very important possessions that you would take out of your home if there is a fire, if there is an emergency or something.

[00:29:10] Dr Melvin Vopson: And usually they would contain typically passports, you know, I dunno, birth certificates, maybe title this for the house, these kind of things. Maybe some family jewelries or some personal items. I still have that suitcase, but in it, I still have the passports and other things, but I have a two terabyte.

[00:29:32] Dr Melvin Vopson: Digital data storage device where I keep all our family photos, all our, um, family movies, um, all our important documents, all everything, uh, is digitized. Even all photos from, uh, you know, past, past years in, in our Family tree and everything, they, they've been digitized. I scan everything. I have the digital and I keep them on hardest drive.

[00:29:54] Dr Melvin Vopson: And I, it's one of my most precious positions is, is in [00:30:00] the getaway suitcase . Um, so I'm not sure how, uh, what other, what your readers value, uh, most, but this is what I would take when I go, um, somewhere. And guess what? I keep copies of this just in case there is a malfunction of the device that is, I don't want to lose this data.

[00:30:21] Dr Melvin Vopson: And nobody wants to delete anything. Nobody wants to lose the data. And I said to you that in 1996, paper became more expensive to store information than digital data. , that is one, one aspect only. The fact that to copy something from the paper, he, he needs a printing machine or he needs somebody to physically handwrite uh, information.

[00:30:47] Dr Melvin Vopson: The digital information, once it's created, is copied in an instant and copied infinite times. You can copy it without any limit. You can have a book, which is digitized, [00:31:00] recopied for every person on this planet if they want to, to have that book. And if it's free to, to access it, there is, there is no limit to that.

[00:31:09] Dr Melvin Vopson: So in other words, the information creation and the storage has accelerated to. Um, levels that nobody's seriously looking at this, uh, where do we put all this stuff and, um, how much it costs to do it, and how long can we do this for? So the answer is, the, the reason we are doing this is because information is so valuable to.

[00:31:42] Dr Melvin Vopson: Individuals, but also to corporations, and it became a commodity. Uh, if you look at the business model of, uh, companies like the big tech, the big giants like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and all these guys, YouTube, they're the leading corporations on the planet today. They're not, these are not factories making [00:32:00] cars or planes.

[00:32:01] Dr Melvin Vopson: These are not, um, energy, uh, producing giants. They're, um, high-tech. We call them high-tech giants, but in essentially, I call them digital, um, economy giants. You know, all they do, they, they use information from the public and overall information to store it, to manipulate it, to process it, and to trade it, to, to sell it essentially.

[00:32:26] Dr Melvin Vopson: And. Most, most often this is done through advertising and people watching content or accessing their services, digital services and, um, advertising, being slotted into the, the things, but also trading information, uh, for real where, where people have to pay for content. And it appears to be unlimited because, um, let's take YouTube.

[00:32:50] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, YouTube makes money by uploading, uh, allowing people to upload videos on, um, online. And, uh, viewers are [00:33:00] watching these videos, YouTube, um, ads, commercial adverts in the videos themselves. They have some paid channels as well and so on. Subscription model, but essentially is, um, is based on content added by, um, users and reselling that.

[00:33:17] Dr Melvin Vopson: But they also have an option to add content, which is private. So I have a YouTube channel, which is, um, I said to you about my two terabyte hardest drive where I keep family and personal things, but now you can put them on a cloud. You don't need to even have this physical device at home. You can, if you don't have super private files and super confidential files, which are not entirely safe on the cloud, you can put them on a cloud.

[00:33:45] Dr Melvin Vopson: You can upload them somewhere. So I have some, some of our family videos uploaded to a channel, but guess what? That channel is not public. The, the YouTube gives you this option to make it private, so you need, [00:34:00] um, a link to access it. It is not visible to search engines. In other words, they don't make any money with their content.

[00:34:08] Dr Melvin Vopson: But in the same time, I can upload unlimited. They never asked me to pay anything. They never told me You have a limit of that many gigabytes. You exceed that limit. You cannot upload anything. I can upload unlimited amounts and this free, and they don't make any money with us. So there is a problem here because there is a cost associated to storing this information and keeping the servers running.

[00:34:35] Dr Melvin Vopson: They, um, uh, the, the, it's, it's stratospheric is incredible how much, uh, energy it needs. So I predict, um, there, there will be a moment of reckoning where all these digital services and things there will. Become more or less commodities, um, uh, from, from the two ends, the user [00:35:00] end and the, the, the, the giant, um, high-tech end.

[00:35:04] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, in other words, we will not be able to do this, um, these things for free, uh, indefinitely for too long. There, there will be some kind of cost, um, associated to storing information and all these digital services at some point in the future because, um, the growth is so stratospheric, it will, it's unsustainable.

[00:35:26] Dr Melvin Vopson: And I have, I have some numbers. Um, we, in 2020, we created 59 zetabytes of information. Okay? The whole year. This is 59 trillion gigabytes. To give you a number, I

[00:35:43] Gerry McGovern: calculated, and maybe I'm wrong at once, how much paper would be required to print out one zettabyte of, of data just, just for, you know, um, illustrative purposes.

[00:35:57] Gerry McGovern: And I estimated, uh, based on my [00:36:00] calculations, looking at how, how mu how much paper you'd get from a single tree. I estimated that you'd need 20 trillion trees for just one petabyte, 20 trillion trees, like, and there's only three and a half trillion trees on the planet. So that gives you a sense of how big a zettabyte it is.

[00:36:20] Dr Melvin Vopson: Correct. And, um, just to set the record straight, uh, petabyte is, um, uh, 10 to the power 21. Um, in, in terms of beats contained is eight times 10 to the power 21 in terms of number of beats because a byte has eight beats. So, Looking at the numbers in 2018, it was about 33 zetabytes. It grew to 59 in 2020.

[00:36:47] Dr Melvin Vopson: Anyway, the, the growth rate appears to be I com. I, I, I wrote an article for the conversation, um, an online platform. And, uh, I had to look at these numbers in details, uh, in great detail. But when I, [00:37:00] um, wrote the article, I estimated 61% growth rate, um, year on year. Uh, later I did, visited my calculations and I think, uh, that number was wrong.

[00:37:09] Dr Melvin Vopson: It appears to be about 33%, about half of that. It's about 33%, uh, growth rate, um, real growth rate based on the data we have on the last, um, couple of years. Why we're looking at the last couple of years, because 99% of the data has been produced in the last 10 years on the. This is getting exponentially growing now at a very, very fast rate.

[00:37:34] Dr Melvin Vopson: By 2025, the estimate of this growth rate, it's 175 Zetabytes, uh, in a year being produced. Uh, last year we produced 85 Zetabytes, by the way. So 2021. Um, you made your estimation, very interesting estimation on, um, um, on, uh, the amount of paper. But I think, uh, in my, uh, conversa, um, the conversation [00:38:00] article, I made an estimation on, um, if each, uh, beat, uh, would be a coin.

[00:38:06] Dr Melvin Vopson: I think this is what I, I looked at and you stuck them up into a, um, um, a stack of, um, physical coins, like one pound coin. Okay? Um, I said, um, how high, um, this stock will take you. And, um, it turns out, um, that. Taking three millimeter thickness of a coin, a zettabyte will make up a stack of coins that will be 2,550 light years.

[00:38:37] Dr Melvin Vopson: To give you an idea, it will take you to, so the distance from here to to the moon is one second. In light years , the distance to the sun, I think is, uh, if I'm not wrong, is eight minutes in light years. In other words, the light travels in eight minutes from the sun. 2,550 light [00:39:00] years will take us to the nearest star system, Alfa Cent 600 times.

[00:39:06] Dr Melvin Vopson: So the stack of coins of one zettabyte will take you to alpha cent 600 times back and forth. And that's

[00:39:15] Gerry McGovern: just one zettabyte,

[00:39:17] Dr Melvin Vopson: that one zettabyte. Today we're making 59 times that amount every year. Okay. So just to, just to set the record, um, give some numbers so our, um, um, listeners can relate to some physical objects like you did your paper estimate.

[00:39:33] Dr Melvin Vopson: This is another, um, another estimate. So then in 2020, I, I took a look. My interest in, uh, following up on the 2019 article, I made some interesting, um, extrapolations there linking information to dark matter, um, and the fifth state of matter and so on. So I became interested in, um, in this aspect and, and, and I, I [00:40:00]wanted to calculate.

[00:40:03] Dr Melvin Vopson: An information content, possible information content per elementary particles or per matter itself by looking at the matter in a similar way to biological, uh, matter and the information content in the matter itself, uh, being similar to the d n a of, uh, biological, um, um, uh, systems. And in, in, in this study, I came up with something and, uh, that something was, um, so confusing that I said, uh, that can be right because if I take our planet and I calculate how much information content would be in the whole body mass of the planet, including oceans and everything in it, and everything on it, and the atmosphere, I came up with some numbers and they were not too far off from our uncertainty in defining the mass of the planet in the first place.

[00:40:59] Dr Melvin Vopson: [00:41:00] Um, so I. Relaxed a little bit when I, I, I saw that because initially I, I, I thought I found a, uh, a total fallacy, some kind of non-physical answer, which will to some degree invalidate everything I've done previously. But, uh, it didn't. But in this process, I started to look at these huge numbers, um, um, that we are producing 10 to the power 21 bits of information every year, and if the growth is 33% every year, then I wrote a paper in, uh, 2020 and I said, what will happen to the, the, the global digital data information that we are producing, assuming we don't stop this and we are producing whatever, increasing rates.

[00:41:50] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, and in my study I took. Growth rates 5% per year, 20% and [00:42:00] 50%. Actually, I think I took only three growth rates and 50%. It turns out the real growth rate is about 33%. So I'm somewhere in the upper side of my estimates. Okay. But I took this, um, assumption that we are this three, three different numbers and I, I worked out the mathematics of everything and it turns out, uh, these growth.

[00:42:24] Dr Melvin Vopson: We're gonna create more bits of information than all the atoms on the planet, which is a number of about 10 to the power 50 atoms on earth, including everything that makes up the earth. In about 1,200 years at the G 5% growth rate, 340 years, 20% growth rate, 150 years at 50% growth rate. Now we know we are about 33%, so we're looking at around 200 something years.

[00:42:51] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, this growth rate, we will have more digital bits of information than the atoms on the planet. So the question I'm [00:43:00] asking you now, at the moment, we are storing this information in physical systems. Data storage devices, servers, magnetic data storage, flash drives, optical data storage. If we create information that EQ equals the number of atoms on the planet, and we don't know how to store information on a single atom, yeah, we don't know how to do that.

[00:43:21] Dr Melvin Vopson: We can't do that at the moment. We use thousands of atoms per bit, thousands, tens of thousands. Where is gonna go that information and how we are gonna mitigate this, how we're gonna sustain this? I called, I called this information, um, singularity, the information catastrophe. This is the title of the article.

[00:43:42] Dr Melvin Vopson: And in the same article, I took a look at, um, the number of beats that we're creating, uh, which will reach an impossible level that can be sustained. I looked at the energy required, assuming the most effective land wear limit [00:44:00] energy required to create a beat. Uh, not even looking at these material constraints and potential energies that you need to sustain the bit and the magnetic states or whatever you are using.

[00:44:12] Dr Melvin Vopson: I just assume that we are storing this information at the maximum efficiency. We're gonna run out of power in about 100 years. All the power that we use on the planet today is about 1819 terrawatts to run the planet. And I mean, transportation, heating, cooling, um, eliminations, all the, the electricity, all the industries, everything.

[00:44:35] Dr Melvin Vopson: We are using internet and everything computations, everything, everything we do on the planet. It's about, let's say 19 terrawatts Today, in about 110 years, the digital information itself will overtake all this power requirement will eaten out by the digital information itself, which is another component of this information [00:45:00] catastrophe.

[00:45:01] Dr Melvin Vopson: In the same study I took a look at, um, assuming my mass energy information principle, equivalence principle is correct. Uh, and assuming information has indeed mass and we're creating so much of it, it works out that in a few hundred years, um, I don't have the numbers in front of me, but um, it's not very far distant.

[00:45:23] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, future, let's, let's put it like this. If my , if my principle is correct, we are gonna, half the mass of the planet will be made up of digital bits. Okay? This is, um, how scary is today? Today, the mass of all the information that we created on the planet in total, not in one year in total. Everything created in the past and up to this point today, digital information, it's only about the mass of one equally bacteria.

[00:45:55] Dr Melvin Vopson: Just to give you an idea. So you take a bacteria, you measure the mass of that bacteria. [00:46:00] And I had a, I had a mass of that. Uh, I can give you the, if I can grab this information, um, uh, in a second, I can give you the mass. So this would be 23, 10 times 10 to the power minus 17 kilograms. So you are talking about 10 to the minus.

[00:46:21] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, um, uh, 17, um, kilograms. It's, uh, billions, thousands of billions smaller than, um, uh, uh, a gram . In other words, it's, it's a bacteria, the mass bacteria that is the massive information of all the information on the planet today. But the growth we are projecting here, it will reach some incredible. Levels that will make up, up to half the, the mass of the planet will be digital information,

[00:46:56] Gerry McGovern: which is extraordinary.

[00:46:58] Gerry McGovern: And I think that [00:47:00] by 2030 we will beginning to become much more aware of this growth and like it'll be long before a hundred years that it'll actually be, have a serious impact on societies and economies. Uh, like I think in the next 10 years, even with the growth rates, we'll be, begin to become aware of this major cost of storing information and storing data.

[00:47:28] Gerry McGovern: Well, like

[00:47:28] Dr Melvin Vopson: I call this the invisible crisis, to be honest, in some of my, uh, interviews and articles. Um, and you, you mentioned in Ireland, uh, data servers, uh, consuming so much power. Uh, I have some numbers here. I mean, the largest in the world. Today is called the Citadel. And this is, uh, located in, um, uh, Reno, Nevada.

[00:47:47] Dr Melvin Vopson: He occupies 7.2 million square feet and he needs 815 megawatts power to run. Okay. On the planet. On the planet, we have 600 today, [00:48:00] hyperscale data centers. Okay? These are the only data servers that have more than, um, uh, 500 servers if you want. Like it's hyper server, uh, hyperscale data server, so very large ones.

[00:48:13] Dr Melvin Vopson: Okay. 600 and we are building a hundred new ones every year. No, every two years. I'm sorry, every two years. We have a hundred new data servers every two year, two. These are, these are the numbers in terms of this, uh, moment of reckoning, uh, this becoming unsustainable. I think it's already happening to some degree.

[00:48:33] Dr Melvin Vopson: I, I want to tell a short story now. Um, at the University of Portsmouth, we have a lot of our teaching activities, um, occurring, well, teaching materials and some of the activities and everything. They are kept on a platform called Moodle. It's an online platform for teaching, learning, and education is, uh, very powerful.

[00:48:55] Dr Melvin Vopson: And I am, uh, serving in a number of committees. One of them is the [00:49:00] ethics committee at the university. And, uh, the last meeting we had, um, it was a discussion about. All the ethics forms and ethics applications and all the reviews that we're doing and everything that is happening, they're being stored on this model server.

[00:49:15] Dr Melvin Vopson: And guess what, this is run by Google. So university works with Google to provide the storage, the cloud, everything we, we even have Google email is, uh, port Dok, but he runs on Google email, um, uh, platform. And, um, we've been told at that committee meeting that we can no longer store in indefinite amounts of information on, on this ethics committee model server, because there are caps and limits now to the amount of information we can store.

[00:49:52] Dr Melvin Vopson: It's simply too, And Google is already imposing some kind of limits, or you have to [00:50:00] pay something extra in order to, um, add, uh, content. Um, and it's a very simple explanation. They don't make any money with this. Uh, it's, it goes back to those videos I mentioned to you on YouTube, which I keep private. I, I only, I watch those videos.

[00:50:16] Dr Melvin Vopson: There is no advertising revenue. There is no benefit to Google. And yet I can upload, uh, continuously and there is no limit, no cap, how much I can upload there. But there is a cost to the company for keeping them there. So this is gonna come to an end. Um, it, it will be a cost to us. Um, at some point. I don't think it's sustainable.

[00:50:35] Dr Melvin Vopson: And, uh, this information catastrophe is just a, a, a metaphor, scientific metaphor if you want. It's, it's, it's a singularity, sort of like that will never, will never be riched because the market forces are gonna balance out, um, uh, these technological developments and things will reach an equilibrium. They, they cannot continue.

[00:50:58] Dr Melvin Vopson: They cannot. [00:51:00]

[00:51:00] Gerry McGovern: Here's another, uh, element of, of all that I've, I've worked for almost 30 years in the internet since 1994, uh, space. And, and what I noticed in working with large websites or large internets or data environments, was massive, massive quantities of waste. Uh, so I, here is one study that I came across recently and it said only 5% of data is accessed again three months after it's first stored.

[00:51:33] Gerry McGovern: Uh, and I could give you multiple other quotes which talk about 90% of data unused. Like we talked about photographs earlier in 2020, we took 1.4 trillion photos, one 1.4 trillion photos just in one year. So more photos in 2020 than in the 20th century. And the vast majority of those. Are not being accessed.

[00:51:58] Gerry McGovern: You, you, you said [00:52:00] about we never delete and so much of what we don't delete is actually crap. And that if this apocalypse keeps going or catastrophe in the sense we, we are actually, I, in my understanding, we, we don't have data centers. We have data dumps. We, we are creating and storing massive quantities of data that has little or no

[00:52:24] Dr Melvin Vopson: value.

[00:52:26] Dr Melvin Vopson: I couldn't agree more. This, it, it's almost insane, is, uh, we talk about climate change or, or, or, or, or food, um, crisis and energy crisis. But this is, this is something we are doing, uh, sleepwalking into, into this crisis to some degree. I, I see it like, it's almost invisible. Nobody, that committee meeting, in fact, there was an academic who said, I thought we can upload infinite amounts to this server.

[00:52:53] Dr Melvin Vopson: There is no limit. Um, and that was a physics academic. So how can you even [00:53:00]make a statement like this, you know, that nothing is infinite. I mean, nothing is infinite, nothing. Everything is finite on our planet. universe is infinite, but we have a finite, um, you know, quantity of everything. And, um, information is one.

[00:53:16] Dr Melvin Vopson: We, we, we will not be able to sustain this growth, um, forever. And, you know, I fear most about some of the big tech companies which have a business model based on, um, uh, you know, revolving around this, uh, Trading of information and, um, you know, storing and manipulating and they, I'm sure they will adopt.

[00:53:37] Dr Melvin Vopson: I'm sure they have very smart people and, um, and scientists and engineers and strategists looking at the business model, looking at future, um, roadmaps and, uh, you know, uh, adopting the business and doing changes. But they will have to.

[00:53:53] Gerry McGovern: Well, to some degree I think it's part of the plan. Like I think in some ways big tech [00:54:00] is like, is like the illegal drugs industry, , uh, it, it gives you free, it gives you, it, it, it gives you free stuff to, to get you addicted.

[00:54:10] Gerry McGovern: And then once you are addicted, it tells you you have to pay. Correct. You know, are, are, are you, you know? So now, In your ethics committee, it's not going to be easy to shift all that out of Google or, so Google now in, and, and also that Google has access to your ethics discussions is, is, is even more scary in, in, and I think we don't recognize that either that we are storing,

[00:54:39] Dr Melvin Vopson: uh, private information on a cloud, which is not private.

[00:54:42] Dr Melvin Vopson: Exactly. Is

[00:54:43] Gerry McGovern: not private, which is not private, which is not, and which is that very cloud is based, one of its core business models is based on the manipulation of us, uh, to sell us advertisers. So they want our private information so [00:55:00] that they can get a deeper map of who we are, uh, so that they can sell us more stuff that'll destroy the planet even faster.

[00:55:09] Gerry McGovern: So we're kind of, DA data has become even the 5% that's used a lot of that use. Is for advertising. It's not for, to help the Amazon, uh, recuperate or to, you know, regenerate, uh, nature. It's actually to create more, uh, paper and plastic packages for Amazon. That'll, that'll send out more stuff that we don't really need.

[00:55:36] Dr Melvin Vopson: And to add to your, um, final comment, they use artificial intelligence to, um, scan through all these datasets and, uh, and clouds, uh, uh, databases, uh, to help the AI learn, um, things, but also create predictive algorithms about. Ourselves about our behavior, our patterns, [00:56:00] our to maximize their, um, you know, advertising revenue, you know, profitability of things.

[00:56:08] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, so this is, uh, kind of accelerated even more now with the development in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Yeah, and,

[00:56:17] Gerry McGovern: and just in relation to that, like, I would say that for every dollar that's spent on AI to do positive things about the climate change, there's a hundred dollars being spent for advertising AI to get us to, to buy more for ton SUVs and to, because advertising is set is in essence selling to our weaknesses.

[00:56:43] Gerry McGovern: I mean, you don't need to a. For potatoes or, you know, for bicycles or for most of the stuff that we are advertised for. It's the stuff we don't really need that much, but makes a lot of money for, you [00:57:00] know, uh, a brand, so to speak. So a lot of the essence of advertising is actually the reason why we have a climate crisis, because the climate crisis is driven by the human consumption crisis

[00:57:14] Dr Melvin Vopson: and this advertising, um, aggressive advertising, um, policy and the campaign, it goes back to, uh, some fundamentals which are overlooked by everyone.

[00:57:27] Dr Melvin Vopson: The fact that human brain is essentially is a biological computer, so it's a, is a computing machine, essentially the human brain, a very effective one. And computers need programs to function. They need computers, don't, um, Run themselves. They need a program to tell them what to do, and they do what they're programmed to do.

[00:57:49] Dr Melvin Vopson: Uh, uh, in a similar way, this is how human brain works. The, as a child you are born and you, you get programmed by learning from your parents how to walk, how to speak, [00:58:00] how to, you upload information into your brain, and you, you, you create the programs, um, to, to, to live, uh, okay. Effective, to stay safe, uh, to, to feed yourself, to, to learn.

[00:58:12] Dr Melvin Vopson: But another, another aspect to this is that you can program the brain by how do you program the brain? The brain. You, you pass on information to the brain, to the individual through some means. And these means are, uh, written media, television, radio, social media. It's, it's through the media. It's through the media, through the internet advertising, through the, so by watching on tele, um, uh, the same advert.

[00:58:43] Dr Melvin Vopson: 10, 20 times a day or listening on the radio the same advert 10, 20 times a day or on YouTube, your brain subconsciously gets programmed. You program people's minds through various means, [00:59:00]you know, and one of them is this advertising, uh, is just information projected into the brain. And the brain register registers this, you know, subconscious.

[00:59:10] Dr Melvin Vopson: It's not even, you're not even thinking about this. Before you know it, you end up buying that product because your brain just does it. You know, it tells you it, it creates the desire without even you realizing that you've, you've been programmed into this. So this is fascinating stuff. Um, but, uh, I, I, I wanted to add quickly of, uh, one, one little aspect before we wrap up this.

[00:59:36] Dr Melvin Vopson: Um, I think it's, uh, is very interesting to, just to mention this, uh, the fact that these numbers are so huge. Um, and I realize that we are looking at a hundred to hundred years and, uh, the, the office a few billion years, um, old and, um, human civilization is a few thousand years old. Uh, and we've been doing this for less than a hundred years, and we're looking at another a hundred or a [01:00:00] hundred something years to have more digital beats than atoms on the planet.

[01:00:05] Dr Melvin Vopson: Okay? So what I realized, this I, uh, another idea, uh, crept into my mind, uh, the fact that what if. Objective reality is not as objective. What if, um, the whole reality is actually a, a simulation, um, more like a, a virtual reality digital simulation. And, um, this is because of these huge numbers. We, we, we kind of, we get there very quickly, very quickly we get there in terms of these numbers.

[01:00:35] Dr Melvin Vopson: So at this level, you can imagine that, uh, uh, an advanced civilization would be able to simulate the whole universe, not not just our world, you know, or, um, our, um, reality. Um, and they're not the only one thinking like this. It's a huge community of people out there, um, thinking that our reality is not what we think and there are too many [01:01:00] unknowns and a simulation hypothesis.

[01:01:04] Dr Melvin Vopson: A very viable scientific option. And there are serious academics looking at this from philosophical, scientific angle, from all sorts of aspects. And I'm pleased to tell you that in 2022, I published, um, my interest is to, uh, resolve some of these things not only from a theoretical fundamental physics angle, but also to add validity by experimenting and putting these ideas to test.

[01:01:30] Dr Melvin Vopson: And I'm pleased to let you know that, uh, in 2022, I published, uh, a, a possible experiment to, to test, uh, these ideas, you know, including the simulation hypothesis. It will be a consequence of, uh, successful experiment. It will be that information is indeed the fifth state of matter, and it shows that we probably live in a simulation.

[01:01:50] Dr Melvin Vopson: The, the whole universe is a, a, a kind of digitized, um, simulation. This article is published in 2022, and um, I'm [01:02:00] also happy to announce the. There has been a lot of interest in my, um, information studies, information physics studies from scientists, academics, and the public. And, um, please to announce the, the creation of the first institute in the world of information physics.

[01:02:18] Dr Melvin Vopson: It's called, Um, information physics in one word. It has been created, um, uh, about eight weeks ago. Um, and the purpose of this institute is to bring together, um, an international range of public academics and thinkers, um, interested in, in this information physics, um, uh, research aspects, but also to fundraise, um, the, the, the necessary funding to perform the experiment I proposed in 2022.

[01:02:52] Dr Melvin Vopson: So there is a fundraising campaign, um, that will appear very soon. Um, and, uh, it's all channel through this [01:03:00] new institute. Uh, and I, I, I wanted to mention this because it's possible some of your listeners, uh, might be actually very, Deeply interested in this, um, in these, um, ideas and, uh, in the, and the science and if they want to get involved, this institute is there.

[01:03:17] Dr Melvin Vopson: We have a free membership, uh, option and, um, we are happy to, uh, you know, to get as many members and collaborators and, um, you know, funding, um, institutions, uh, as possible.

[01:03:33] Gerry McGovern: Thank you. Yes, and, and, uh, you know, the, the, your ideas and um, are are quite profound and, um, this recognition of. This issue, as you said, this invisible crisis, I think is, does not have the awareness that it needs to have, uh, among either, you know, [01:04:00] industry or, or, or politics or otherwise.

[01:04:02] Gerry McGovern: So, raising these issues is, is, uh, of major, uh, major. I recognize the profundity of, of, uh, the, the work that you were, uh, addressing. And I'm sure lots of people will be interested, uh, in this institute. I've, I've been participating in or observing some of the discussions, and they are, they are profoundly important for the future, uh, of us as a species.

[01:04:31] Gerry McGovern: I, I sometimes wonder if we'll actually even survive as a species. Maybe equilibrium is actually the extinction of the human species, uh, on, on, on this planet. Who, who knows? Because what we, if we know anything, we know that just because it happened in the past doesn't mean it will happen in the future, and an equilibrium may not actually involve the human species being around.

[01:04:58] Gerry McGovern: That

[01:04:58] Dr Melvin Vopson: that's correct, . [01:05:00] It's a very unorthodox way of ending this, but, uh, it's, it's a possible scenario. It's

[01:05:13] Gerry McGovern: If you're interested in these sorts of ideas, please check out my book, worldwide to hear other interesting podcasts. Please visit this is

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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