PLENTITUDE NOT SCARCITY

A network is a possibility factory.

So tremendous is the fount of plentitude in the network economy that having to deal with nearly infinite choices and mushrooming possibilities may be the limiting factor in the future. Navigating sanely through an expanding ocean of options is already difficult. The typical supermarket in America offers 30,000 to 40,000 products. The average shopper will zoom through the store in 21 minutes, and select out of those 40,000 choices about 18 items. This is an amazing feat of decision making. But it is nothing compared to what happens on the web. There are one million indexed web sites, containing 250 million pages. To be able to find the right page out of that universe is astounding, and the number of pages doubles every year. Dealing with this plentitude is critical because the totals of everything we manufacture in the world are only compounding. The total amount of information stored in the entire world–that’s counting all the libraries, film vaults, and data archives–is estimated to be about 2,000 petabytes. (A petabyte is a billion megabytes, or about a quadrillion books the size of this one.) That’s a lot of bits.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK