Published August 5, 2009
Tags: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Current TV, Euna Lee, Kim Jong-Il, Laura Ling, North Korea, United States, VC2, viewer created content, viewer-created, Wikipedia
Cable TV company Current TV has hit the headlines today with the BBC News announcement that two of its reporters, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, have received pardons over spying charges from North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il and flown back to the US. Their return flight was in an unmarked plane used by high-profile rescuer Bill Clinton to fly in to Pyongyang and plead their case. Given that Al Gore, Clinton’s former VP, owns and runs Current TV it’s not hard to imagine how Clinton was brought into the negotiations and it seems to have paid off handsomely – with two reporters rescued and a new diplomatic front opening up as we speak. The Guardian reported the journalists’ homecoming in a video clip .
Current TV’s production model represents a new approach to media in the twenty-first century. A portion of its content (referred to as viewer-created content or VC2) is, as the name implies, created by viewers, loosely following the text-based model used by Wikipedia for its online content. Viewers are encouraged to send in mobile phone video grabs for broadcast. On the more traditional side, the company’s Vanguard group dispatches reporters to newsworthy sites around the world, such as the ill-fated trip taken by Ms’ Ling and Lee, to report on global issues for later broadcast in a weekly half hour program.
Affordable Petabyte (PB) drives are just around the corner, apparently, according to some tech commentators. We’re talking about storing one thousand Terabytes (or a million Gigabytes) of data on a device that will probably fit into your laptop – or link to it via a cable – in the ‘fairly’ near future. This recent Mercola.com article, sourced from Gizmodo, attempts to put the question of Petabyte storage size into some kind of perspective. For example, a Petabyte could store 57 years worth of DVD movie data, or perhaps the same number of years of a person’s life recorded 24/7. Dr Mercola rightly points out that a mind-blowing amount of storage is only as useful as our ability to access it in some coherent way. It’s the metadata, of course, that holds the true value of the information. Wikipedia also provides some interesting stats on petabyte storage.
Reading about this technology reminded me of an article I read around 13 years ago about a device called the “soul catcher chip” that scientists at British Telecom were developing. The chip was designed to be attached to a subject’s optic nerve and store all the incoming nerve traffic from a life’s worth of viewing, presumably for later analysis and review (but by whom?) Interestingly, the article quotes one scientist’s claim that a lifetime of experiences could be stored in 10 terabytes of data. This seems rather quaintly inadequate when compared with the Petabyte stats for recording someone’s life mentioned above.
So what sort of storage do we look for when we start filling up our PB drives? Well, that would probably be the Exabyte (EB) drive, which is another way of saying a thousand Petabytes or billion Terabytes. This may sound like a heap of data, but the CSIRO claims that the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope due to begin construction in 2013 will be processing 10 petabytes of data every hour once fully operational, generating an Exabyte of data every four days. Once the EB drive fills up, we’ll be moving on to the Zetabyte (ZB) drive (1000 Exabytes), and then, inevitably, the Yottabyte (YB) drive (1000 Zetabytes). OK, so byte me already…