There are now more gadgets on Earth than people

Humanity has reached a milestone on our journey toward the inevitable confrontation with Skynet. For the first time ever, there are now more active mobile devices on planet Earth than people.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
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Eric Mack
2 min read

Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

It's not quite the Singularity, but for the first time ever our species is outnumbered by active mobile devices, many of which we officially consider to be "smart," including a growing percentage that only communicate from one machine to another.

According to the US Census Bureau's world population counter, we are currently just a few million shy of 7.2 billion people on the planet. That figure is growing by about 2 people per second, or 1.2 percent annually. But head over to the counter of active mobile connections maintained by mobile analysis firm GSMA Intelligence and you'll see that there's currently over 7.2 billion SIM cards operating in the world right now, and that figure is growing over five times faster than the population counter.

"No other technology has impacted us like the mobile phone. It's the fastest growing manmade phenomenon ever -- from zero to 7.2 billion in three decades," said Kevin Kimberlin, Chairman of Spencer Trask & Co. in a release highlighting the milestone. Kimberlin's firm was an initial investor in Millicom, a startup that works to bring mobile connections to developing countries with the help of partnerships with bigger names like Facebook.

While there may be more active SIMs than people, a little less than half the population has a mobile subscription, or put another way, there are almost two active SIMs for each unique subscriber worldwide.

So we officially live in a world where there are enough connected phones, tablets or similar devices for everyone. Yet, it's not exactly Skynet.

Or is it? Did I mention that what actually puts the number of active mobile connections over the top in its race with the meatbag population is the estimated quarter billion active machine-to-machine connections? These M2M connections are for things like cars, medical appliances, smart utility meters and freight packages.

No one yet measures the number of active mobile M2KR (machine-to-killer-robot) connections. Perhaps it's time we started.