Monday, April 28, 2008

Worldometers - Information Overload

I just watched my odometer spin up to 40,000 miles on my car. There's something compelling about watching all those 9s roll over to 0s.

So it was with great interest that I discovered Worldometers, a web site devoted to telemetry on the world and the human race, odometer style. For example, the fact that human population is a few days away from reaching 6, 666, 666, 666 is readily apparent. As I visited the number was 6,665,960,705 and spinning up rapidly. Today's population growth was an additional 194,000 people with a blur in the last digits. I doubt the world will come to an end when the 6s line up, but there's still something ominous about the number of people coming on board our spaceship Earth and the speed with which the numbers are growing.

A striking set of ironies could be gleaned from the section on Food. While there were currently 887,997,539 undernourished people in the world and over 26,484 people died today from starvation, there were also 1,121,967,373 overweight people. In the USA alone, dieters spent over $11,073,058,898 trying to lose the excess pounds.

Then there's the section on Environment, which shows, for example topsoil erosion at 7,678,211,063 metric tons this year. Mismanagement has led to desertification of 4,827,772 acres so far this year. If that trend continues, how long before the undernourished and starving outnumber the overweight?

While the static numbers are in themselves powerful, there's something eerily seductive about watching the numbers spin, knowing that, at some point, some of those numbers will begin to level off and start spinning rapidly backwards and that each of us represents one of those digits.

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