Exploring this shift in our society, CNN recently posted a story on how we’re increasingly using digital devices to augment our mental memories. If you’re like me, you probably only remember a few phone numbers now, much fewer than what you likely knew before you had your first cell phone.
If you consider how much we rely on the Internet and apps for information, or even digital assistants like Siri for reminders, CNN’s argument is that perhaps we’re already well on the road to becoming cyborgs, even if our digital enhancements are still external at this point.
Incredibly, the piece reports that we store an estimated 227 MB of information in our brains. That’s just over one quarter of a gigabyte - not much capacity at all considering the amount of data we use in our daily lives today. The story reports that we could theoretically have up to 2.5 PB of capacity in our brains, but the accuracy of both of these numbers is certainly challenged by the complexity of translating information in human dimensions to the dataset sizes of our digital world.
In any case, you certainly wouldn’t run a phone on a quarter of a gigabyte of capacity, let alone your data centre. Yet your brain - arguably a very powerful CPU - manages to process and synthesise astonishing things on its paltry 227 MB of data. This incredible achievement underlines a transformation we see happening in data centres today: The separation of performance from capacity.
Until the advent of the flash memory tier, performance and capacity were lumped together in the backend storage system. With flash memory, performance has been decoupled from the need to store data through time and moved into the server. By caching data in the server, CPUs get the crucial information they need at extremely high speed, while the slower storage system can focus on hosting all the non-crucial data that’s not needed urgently.
What’s interesting is that this evolution in the data centre is helping to facilitate our growing mental reliance on digital devices and online information. Without the separation of performance from capacity in the data centre, today’s apps and websites likely wouldn’t be able to keep up with how fast we need the exabytes of information our world is now creating. Some might argue that perhaps this isn’t a good trend for humankind, but we seem pretty happy about the convenience, and maybe it is even helping us put our mental cache to better use.
In fact, in a recent talk, Fusion-io Chief Scientist and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reminded us that while computer applications may be getting better, today, it’s still human performance that is powering the creativity and innovation in our world. You can hear Woz’s thoughts firsthand in this video Woz notes that indeed, performance still beats out capacity, but if you’d like to try to expand your 227 MB into a larger mental cache, you can check out tips and tricks from US Memory Champion Nelson Dellis in this video
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