At The Speed of Information

Estimated reading time: 2 minute(s)

The Age of the Unthinkable - Joshua Cooper RamosYou most likely know that we are currently in (really, at the beginning of) the “information” age. (Where previously there were the “industrial” and “agrarian” among other ages.) Most of us are in some way working in the business of information, or at least with the tools used for the communication of information.

I am reading an intriguing book titled, The Age of the Unthinkable, and I found this one little (mostly tangential) paragraph interesting enough to share with you immediately. (I’m sure a full report on the contents of this book will follow here at some later date.) It’s a neat way to think about how the transmission of information has changed ridiculously in relatively recent history.

But perhaps nothing has changed so much as the speed with which we can transmit information. A letter carried on horseback about 150 years ago would have moved information at a rate of about .003 bits per second (the average note carrying, say, 10 kilobytes of data, though of course that measure didn’t yet exist). As late as the 1960s those same 10 kilobytes might have moved at 300 bits per second. Today global telecom cables transmit at a rate of billions of bits per second, a many-billion-fold increase in speed over 150 years.

Many-billion-fold? Amazing. But very true. Definitely a completely different world, even just in my lifetime, but certainly in the last century or more. The times they are a changin’… (have changed?)


  1. How are you liking it? I liked it a lot, especially the first 3/4, but then it seemed to lose a bit of steam. A lot of books are like that for me lately!!


  2. I really like it. I’m only through three chapters so far. Hoping to read a couple more tomorrow morning. It’s definitely intriguing, thinking of the world as so complex that its order is more akin to chaos (if the nature of politics and philosophy and other such human interaction is at all scientific or predictable, anyway) … as I said, I’m sure I’ll offer some more thoughts on this as I go 🙂


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