This may sound unbelievable, but there does seem to be some truth in it: according to this article (thanks to Sam Norton for the link) there are actually circumstances in which carrier pigeons can do a better job than the Internet, and their advantages look set to increase. To simplify the calculations, this is the current situation: a carrier pigeon can carry a 2 GB memory card; on a regular broadband Internet connection it takes four hours to transfer 2 GB; the pigeon can transport the data up to 200 km in that time; and so for shorter distances pigeons do better than the Internet, at this one task of transferring bulk data. The prediction for ten years’ time is that memory cards which pigeons can carry will have a capacity of 2 TB (terabytes). This means that for the Internet to keep its advantages over the pigeon regular domestic connections will need a speed of 8 gigabits per second, which seems unlikely even with fibre optic connections.
It is easy to see that if a carrier pigeon carrying one gram can compete with the Internet, a van carrying a tonne of memory cards, that’s a million of them, leaves the competition in the starting blocks!
Of course this doesn’t mean that the Internet will go away. It can’t be beaten for instant access and interaction. But these calculations do have real implications for the way some services are developing:
For example: is the internet suited for the large scale distribution of high resolution movies or television programs? Many people see this as the future, but it seems not so plausible. It might turn out that it will always be faster, cheaper and more practical to send high-res movies by postal service than by internet …