The human brain is a marvellous tool, but it has its limitations. It can forget to put the bin out, be distracted by an insect buzzing around the room, or “keep thinking it’s Tuesday”. Perhaps its main weakness, however, is with big numbers.
There are stories of tribal and aboriginal languages with a counting system of little more than “one, two, many”, where words for quantities like three or four barely exist. In English, we can express any numbers through words, but we often struggle to assess them. I’ve heard people trying to guess the crowd while at a football match and getting it hopelessly wrong because they’re dealing with four or five-figure numbers that the brain can’t really quantify visually.
This is not ideal because we live in a big world, but one completely dwarfed by an unimaginably big universe. In these times of ‘Big Data’, huge numbers are all around us and mess with our heads on a daily basis. Just this week, YouTube, the second most visited website on the internet, released one to send our minds whirring.
According to a blog post from the Google-owned video streaming site, we now watch a billion hours of YouTube content every single day. That’s one with nine zeros after it.
YouTube’s longest videos are 10 hours long, which sounds an awful long time in itself. Why not watch the below video in full. That’s right – starting at 9:00am and finishing at 7:00pm, do nothing but watching and listening to a video of rain falling onto a gate surrounded by greenery.
Done it? Great! Now do it again 100 million times, and you’ve watched what the world watches every single day. As the blog post explains, this would take you 100,000 years. Go back in time 100,000 years and you’re dealing with times of primitive man who would know no better than to bash a computer or smartphone with a rock, yet that’s the total amount of time invested in YouTube watching every day. Over the course of three years, it would be top a trillion hours, and that’s not taking into account that the site and its user base will probably only grow even further in that time.
With just over 3.5 billion people classed as ‘internet users’ right now, it equates to every single one watching a 17-minute YouTube video every day, like this fascinating one about rotation, torque and other sciency stuff:
Or Darren’s rant about Facebook scams, six times in a row:
It’s certainly a far cry from the old days of counting, where a baker might have to bake five loaves of bread, or a shepherd might have tended to 20 or so sheep. Nobody then would’ve considered the astronomer coming up with 25-figure sums for the number of stars in the universe, or the data analyst trying to contemplate 333 million Darren rants every day.
If you’re wondering what that would be like, try a day in the Engage Web office!