Be good to the earth: give back electrons, avoid the coming shortage

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NOAA and MIT urge voluntary conservation measures now

April 1, 2008 (New York) Organizations around the world are archiving data at a geometrically-increasing rate. Leading scientists worldwide estimate that this will lead to a world-wide electron shortage by 2050. With the cost of conversion higher than ever, it is time to develop more effective data management strategies in order to preserve electrons and avoid expected economic sanctions in the future. On Earth Day 2007 is it especially important that we do not avoid giving attention to this vital issue.

Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in partnership with the M.I.T. College of Earth Sciences, have recently published in article in the journal Science, describing an expected shortage of electrons by the middle of the twenty-first century. Through their research, they have concluded that the information storage lies at the heart of the impending crisis.

Electron shortage graph The cause of the electron shortfall is the consumption of electrons in data processing equipment, most notably in high-density disk drives. Organizations are storing data at a rate of over 100,000GB per day, and by 2010 this is expected to exceed 1,000,000GB or more per day.

“This will surpass the Greenhouse Gases Crisis by 2012,” states Steve Smith, spokesperson for Greenpeace, which is budgeting over one million dollars in 2008 for the purchase of dozens of billboard trucks. “We will be mobilizing resources to promote awareness to the general public on the nature of the problem and which organizations are the biggest contributors.” The billboard trucks’ objective is to arouse grass-roots awareness, promote boycotting, and embarrass those organizations that are wasting the most resources.

Other teams of scientists are approaching the problem from another perspective, through the development of positron disk drives. “This approach is designed to permit the continued upsurge of data storage. Teams of researchers from Stanford University, M.I.T, and IBM are committed to the development of a positron-based storage technology that can be brought to market by the year 2025,” says Ramasamy Chandra, Ph.D., chief scientist at IBM in charge of storage technology research, “we have proven our concepts on paper and in computer models, and hope to working physical models by 2009 and prototype drives by 2010.”

And reportedly, the 2007 G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany will include a working group to prepare agenda items to formally discuss and address the Global Electron Shortage at the 2008 G8 summit. Also, the WTO will take up the issue in a working group at its General Council meetings on July 25-26, 2008.

Standards bodies are getting on board as well. The ANSI, IEEE, and ISO standards organizations are or will shortly be announcing the formation of working standards committees with the objectives of developing data storage standards using positron technology.

More effective data management strategies can also buy time for an organization. If an organization can develop and execute an information management and retention strategy that includes a focus on retention, an organization can decelerate its growth in information storage and stay more eco-friendly from an information storage perspective. Companies are expected to develop competitive advantages in the area of storage management and efficiency, which will also yield a tax advantage as WTO member nations will be expected to more heavily tax those organizations that exceed their electron quotas.

Steve Smith, spokesperson for Greenpeace, sums this up nicely. “We will likely solve the problem using a variety of means, from the development of new storage technologies, more effective storage management strategies, and changes in regulations that permit organizations to ease their data retention burdens.” We shall see.

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