You can do a lot of things on the Internet but whatever you do requires data. The Internet has a lot of data. Some say roughly 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 GB of data are available but no one really knows the exact amount.
GB is short for gigabytes, or one billion bytes. We measure the size of data in bytes. One byte is equivalent to eight bits. You generally need between one and four of these bytes to represent a single letter in the alphabet, or twenty of them for the average English word.
Data needs to be stored and retrieved. Hard drives were designed for exactly this purpose. Twenty years ago it cost $259 to store one GB of data on a hard drive. Today it costs just a few pennies even if people prefer storing their data directly on the Internet. This serves them well considering their phones and tablets don’t even have traditional hard drives.
Data needs to be uploaded and downloaded on the Internet. And this requires a network connection that moves data to and from a computer and the Internet. Five years from now the average Internet user will be transfering 37GB a year through their internet connections.
Data can be stolen. Before the Internet, a thief needed to be physically close to a computer in order to steal the data stored on its hard drive. After computers started connecting to the Internet, thieves could now steel data from anywhere in the world.
You’re probably wondering why someone would steal another person’s data. A person steals another person’s data in order to hurt them. Data is simply a recording of all the things people think and do in their lives. Many times what a person thinks or does should remain private or should only be shared with a very small group of trusted people. This is our basic right but when a person steals our data they violate this right. Sometimes the people we know and want to share our data with also violate our privacy when they accidentally make it available to someone else.
Data also helps us make better decisions. You are probably wondering “I make good decisions without needing data from the Internet,” and this is correct. You rely on your judgement and intuition to make good decisions and this is how it should be. With data however, you have a way of learning more about the facts that describe, explain or even predict a problem you are facing. When you take this data and apply some fancy math to it, you have a powerful new tool to help you answer tough questions. And this is why the Internet is so powerful, it not only contains a lot of data (remember all the bytes I mentioned earlier), but it has the fancy math tools that help people make better decisions.
I know you are probably wondering, “If the Internet helps people make decisions, can it also decide for itself?” This is a great question, and makes for a great story another day.
The lesson here is that data is very important in our lives and this will only increase as you grow older. Learn to protect your data so it can only be seen by those people you trust. Always rely on your judgement and intuition to make good decisions and learn how to use data to make better and more informed decisions.
(for my two young daughters)