If a picture’s worth a thousand words …

… what are 3.5 trillion photos worth? That’s how many photos have ever been taken, according to photo archive site 1000Memories. The company estimates that Facebook currently houses over 140 billion photos uploaded by users, with 6 billion per month being uploaded. The typical digital camera owner takes about 150 digital images per year and potentially uploads 20 percent of those to Facebook.

Of course the real driver of our snap-happiness is the convenience of digital. It currently takes two minutes for people to collectively snap the same amount of photos that were captured during the entire nineteenth century. Ten per cent of those 3.5 trillion photos were taken in the last 12 months alone. Analog photography hit its peak in the year 2000 when 85 billion physical photos were captured, a figure that translates to 2,500 photos per second.

The picture above is the first photo ever taken to feature a human being. The image shows a busy street, but due to exposure time of more than ten minutes, the traffic was moving too much to appear. The exception is the man at the bottom left getting his boots polished, who stood still long enough to show on the picture.

But are we becoming better photographers? Ealier this year I blogged about the greatest photo ever taken – and it was by a machine rather than a human being. Undoubtedly there are far more people who describe themselves as keen on photography now – what digital does allow us to do is to fail repeatedly until we get it right. I am reminded of a saying from Aristotle which points to repeated practice leading to excellence – in time we will all become better snappers.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

7,000,000,000

7 billion

Source: UNFPA

In a fortnight the world’s population will reach seven billion. 7,000,000,000 people. Just 12 years ago it was 6 billion. When I was at school it was a mere 4 billion (contrary to popular belief, I was not at school in the mid nineteenth century – that was just in 1975). But it’s not even the pace of growth that’s so stunning, it’s the absolute number as well. Can we feed and educate that number? Is there enough fresh water? Can we find enough jobs? Can we produce enough energy, in a sustainable way, to support that number of inhabitants?

Of course the problem is different in various parts of the world. In developed Western nations the 7bn milestone will be reached as governments face increasing problems of an ageing population and low birth rates. In China and India, government policies have already slowed what were recently soaring birth rates. It’s in Sub-Saharan Africa that the greatest challenges of rapid population growth appear. The regional population of 900 million could reach 2 billion in 40 years, accounting for half the projected global population growth over that time. The International Water Management Institute has predicted that by 2025 about 1.8 billion people will live in places suffering from severe water scarcity.

Another statistic caught my eye this week that shows how, even within that 7 billion figure, huge changes are happening. More than 20 of the world’s top 50 cities ranked by GDP will be located in Asia by the year 2025, up from 8 in 2007.

Source: McKinsey Quarterly

In this new landscape of urban economic power, Shanghai and Beijing will outrank Los Angeles and London, while Mumbai and Doha will surpass Munich and Denver. The implications for countries’ economic relationships, and the world’s sustainability strategy, are profound.

The United Nations forecasts that population growth will start to slow now, but the number of people in the world will continue to grow until it reaches around 10 billion (soon after 2080). Of course cities will become an ever more important part of how we might possibly accommodate so many people. Which means we will need to start thinking very differently about how we live together.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

The text is from the 1998 “Think Different” Apple ad that marked the beginning of Apple’s re-emergence as a technical giant thanks to the return of Steve Jobs. I don’t think it’s possible to over-estimate Steve Jobs’ impact on the worlds of technology and business. Not just in what he did, but in the way that what he did inspired or enabled so many others to make great things in whatever they did. The human body is fragile but the human spirit can, occasionally, soar to dizzying heights. RIP Steve Jobs.