Info Capacity| The Volume and Value of Information

Andrew Odlyzko


The measurement of the volume of information is fraught with difficulties. However, trends in availability and usage can be very revealing, as is shown by some examples. This article argues that considerations of the volume of information should not be divorced from those of the value of information. In communications, informative comparisons appear to be possible by classifying technologies in just a few dimensions, associated with the features of cost, speed, availability, and usability. An argument also is made that as a rough approximation, the value of information in terms of its volume is best thought of on a logarithmic scale. This approach provides a rough quantitative guide to the diminishing marginal utility delivered by the rapid progress in computing, storage, and communica¬tion technologies. It offers a partial explanation for slow uptake of ultra-high speed broadband and related phenomena.

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