Why Humanity Should Worry More About a ‘Digital Apocalypse’

Whether we like it or not, science acknowledges it very clear that the world will end someday. Still, it doesn’t necessarily have to happen by loads of nuclear explosives and devastated wastelands. The end of the world can even be a long process scattered across thousands of years.

Regardless of the truth, a new study proposes a different perspective for the final days of mankind. While the rate of production of digital bits doesn’t seem to slow down at all, this could bring the world’s demise.

Information could have a physical nature

Researcher Melvin Vopson from the University of Portsmouth in the UK raises awareness about the increasing digital information as a threat to humanity. Vopson also proposed a theoretical construct several months ago, and it was called the mass-energy-information equivalence principle. By taking inspiration from the German-American physicist Rolf Landauer and his work from the 1960s, he claims that information has a physical nature, relying on thermodynamic constraints.

Vopson’s study claims that the mass of a data storage device would increase when loaded up with digital information, and that’s relative to its mass while on an erased state. This increase in mass is theoretical and it would be incredibly tiny, but still significant and measurable. However, the good news is that it will still take a large amount of time in order for the digital information to become a serious threat, as Vopson himself says in a statement:

Assuming a conservative annual growth of digital content creation of 1 percent… we estimate that it will take around ~3,150 years to produce the first cumulative 1 kg of digital information mass on the planet and it will take ~8,800 years to convert half of the planet’s mass into digital information mass

The new study was published in the journal AIP Advances.

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