How much storage is needed to digitally save a human being?

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Last week I had the pleasure of watching Transcendence, a sci-fi movie that started from a great idea but failed sublimely on delivery. It reminded me of a book that I read when I was younger – “The Shaddows” by John Saul and it also reminded me of a movie I saw few months ago – “Her“. In fact, I think it’s sort of a combination of both, just like Edge of Tomorrow is a mix between “Groundhog Day” and “Starship Troopers”. But getting back on topic, in Transcendence, a scientist’s imminent death convince him to try to cheat the unavoidable finish line and to transfer his mind into a computer. This very idea sparkled a question in my mind: how much storage would such an operation need? Further than that, how much storage will be needed in order to save the information on a human being?

Veritasium is a famous YouTube channel that contains explaining videos on many things, including on how much information is needed to save and recreate a human being. At first, it would seem that the entire genetic code will fit in 1.5 GB of storage.

However, each human body has around 40,000 billion cells. If each of these cells contains 1.5GB of genetic code, this means that a single person needs 60 ZB of storage for a complete “save”. That means ’60’ followed by 21 zeros. Try to write that on paper to get an idea on what I’m talking about…

That number is really huge if we think that it is estimated that by 2020 all the digital information in the world will reach 40 ZB. Not even close to 60 ZB.

There is a catch though. Every human being on the planet shares 99.9% of the genetic code with the other people. This means that it takes less than 1 MB of storage to write the differences of the genetic information for each human.

So, if such a system will ever be invented, it could offer a base solution for the 99.9% code that’s common in each of us, and every human will only need an additional 1MB of storage in order to make a backup of himself/herself. I’m not even sure how this could work or if it will ever be available in the future, but it’s a topic to sleep on when the night is quite and you have long conversation with your inner self… One day, “me” could mean an old 1.44 floppy disk. That’s scary, right?

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