Data Running - Story Extra

In Signal Loss, Kyan Anders is a data runner. I envisioned this as the data equivalent of the Planet Fitness commercial, "I lift things up and put them down."

So, what exactly is a data runner, and why would it be necessary in the future?

Consider this: Let's say you live in New York City, and you want to move a terabyte of data to Philadelphia. What's the fastest way to do it?

  1. Transmit it over the internet
  2. Pick up the drive with your hands and walk it to Philadelphia

This may require a #2 pencil and a calculator. Show your work:

Let's say you're a residential internet user with Comcast. I ran the Xfinity speed test and got an upload speed result of 11.8 Mbps. That's 1.475 megabytes per second. 1 TB =  1,000,000 MB.  Uploading my 1 TB file at 1.475 megabytes per second will take 7.8 days. 

On the other hand, Google maps for NYC to PHL shows an Amtrak option (1 hour, 9 minutes) or a driving option (1 hour, 46 minutes). Or you could just walk. Walking 8 hours a day, covering 30 miles per day, it would take 3.2 days. You could enjoy the extra four days wandering around South Street, seeing the Liberty Bell, and running up the Philly Art Museum steps like Rocky.

Other places you can travel to in less than 7.8 days:

  • Anyplace on Earth. You can find flights connecting antipodes (diametrically opposite points on the Earth) with 30 hour transit times, and only two stops
  • The Moon. The original Apollo Earth to Moon trip took 3 days.

Now, you're probably already ahead of me and you've realized, "Aha! But you've used a terabyte. Can we figure out how small the file would need to be to get to Philly before you do?"

Easy enough. My fastest NYC->PHL option is probably the 1 hour, 9 minute Amtrak option. Upload speed of 1.475 megabytes per second times 1 hour, 9 minutes equals 6.1 gigabytes. 

Similarly, for my antipode example, a 30 hour flight equals 159.3 gigabytes.

So, if you're sending things smaller than 6 gigs, the internet will probably win.

But, if you've got to move something big, and do it fast, buy a plane ticket. Or hire Kyan Anders.