This Wired commentary makes an interesting point: While advances in computer science have tended to focus on processing speed, increasinly cheap and efficient digital storage has resulted in a situation where we save too much data.
There was an era when a mechanically captured memory was a rare and precious thing: a formal photo, a faint recording of someone's voice. Nowadays it's all you can do to avoid leaving a recording behind as you go about your day - especially as hard drives get bigger and devices more ubiquitous. The average American is caught at least a dozen times a day on surveillance cameras: at bank machines, above intersections, outside tourist spots, on the dashboards of police cruisers. Businesses log every keystroke made by their employees; help centers store audio of telephone calls, as does 911. DigiMine CEO Usama Fayyad, a computer scientist turned data mining entrepreneur, calculates that the data storage curve is now rocketing upward at a rate of 800 percent per year. "It makes Moore's law look like a flat line," he says. "Companies are collecting so much data they're overwhelmed."
You may know the feeling. Since Kodachrome made way for JPEG, pictures accumulate on hard drives like wet leaves in a gutter. If you wanted to, you could make a fair-quality audio recording of everything that reaches your ears for a month and store it on an iPod that fits in your pocket. Though, of course, you'd need another month to listen to it. Whence the rub: If life gets recorded in real time, it hardly counts as a record at all. It certainly has less impact, and in extreme examples it's self-defeating.
I can certainly relate to this phenomenon, because I'm something of a digital pack rat. My hard drive seems to always be perilously close to fullness (I still haven't gotten around to installing this L33t 40 gig drive...), yet I remain in this churn cycle in which I download pix, video, games, FAQs, and whatnot, burn it on to CD-ROM, and delete it off the hard drive, without necessarily playing, viewing, or reading everything I leech. I do get something of a charge out of simply having c00L stuff (as witnessed by my congruent tendency to by video games and DVDs faster than I can play or watch them), and I've learned that it's best to grab things off the Internet when I can, as they may go away by the time I return, but there's no question I'm collecting data at a faster rate than I can assimilate it.