06 Mar

Industrialization of Information

This recent article in Wired lays out the fascinating phenomenon of the information industry. It describes the massive new server farms cropping up in Oregon to house the petabytes of information for Google (and others) to keep up with the task of copying the rapidly expanding Internet. The article points out that the main problem facing companies like Google that depend on their ability to centralize the Network is not computing speeds or storage, but rather energy consumption. These server farms require so much energy to run that they are likely first to run out of electricity than storage space.

The simple problem of energy consumption leads to a fascinating repetition of industrial growth patterns. Big industry is going to seek out growth areas that supply cheap and easy access to energy. Just as industrial waterfronts are giving way to luxury condominiums, they might soon revert back to industrial warehouses filled with thousands of interlinked CPUs. Perhaps we can expect a new industrial revolution in the near future, with an equally powerful potential to spew noxious fumes and deplete natural resources.

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