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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

by James Gleick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,3201143,887 (3.95)46
From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long misunderstood "talking drums" of Africa, James Gleick tells the story of information technologies that changed the very nature of human consciousness. He also provides portraits of the key figures contributing to the inexorable development of our modern understanding of information, including Charles Babbage, Ada Byron, Samuel Morse, Alan Turing, and Claude Shannon.… (more)
  1. 30
    Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter (Popup-ch)
    Popup-ch: Gleicks book makes innumerable references to this classic.
  2. 31
    Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick (bj2211)
  3. 11
    The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (davesmind)
  4. 00
    The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size by Tor Nørretranders (Popup-ch)
    Popup-ch: Both books address the fundamental problems of communication, but in a slightly different manner. Where Gleick concentrates on the encoder, and Shannon's coding efficiency, Nørretranders instead looks at how this is perceived by the receiver, and ultimately at how the human brain makes sense of the world around us.… (more)
  5. 00
    Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information Is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from Our Brains to Black Holes by Charles Seife (waitingtoderail)
    waitingtoderail: Gleick looks at information theory with more of a view from a mathematical side, Seife more from a scientific side. They complement each other wonderfully.

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» See also 46 mentions

English (109)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  All languages (114)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
Informative! [rim shot] ( )
  andyinabox | Jan 17, 2024 |
I'm not going to pretend I understood 100% of this book. There were parts that left me feeling cross-eyed and dumb (I should say the most advanced math class I ever took was trigonometry in 11th grade). And yet the parts I understood were fascinating, mind-bending, and eye-opening. So I think I came out ahead.

I read Dawkins' [b:The Selfish Gene|61535|The Selfish Gene|Richard Dawkins|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347484876s/61535.jpg|1746717] when I was in college, so it was interesting to have it explained again here. I really didn't fully grasp what Dawkins was saying the first time around, and I'm sure I still don't, but I may be a little closer. The discussion of memes (I didn't even remember the meme part of The Selfish Gene--I thought of it primarily as that "I can has cheezburger" thing) was one of my favorite parts. I love that idea that ideas have a life and their own and they want to replicate the same way genes do.

( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
Reading about information science makes my brain hurt, but in a good way. I was familiar with bits and pieces of what Gleick discusses, but learned a huge amount from each chapter. Highly recommended! ( )
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
Книга об информации. 15 глав о том, как менялось понимание человечества об информации. Книга не является легкой для прочтения, так как наполнена формулами из физики, термодинамики, математики. Конечно же можно прочитать её не углубляясь в детали, но тогда и эффекта от книги не будет. Интересно проследить путь от африканских барабанов, которые служили для передачи информации между племенами в своей особенной форме, до создание словаря и понимание того, что письменность помогла нам создать мир, который мы имеем сейчас. Особенно интересно было проследить поиск Клодом Шенноном теорией об информации, и его попытки уложить всю сложность вселенной в 0,1.

Несмотря на достаточно сухую тему, книга не лишена чувствительности, в некоторых главах автор искусно описывает борьбу великих умов с парадигмом мышления предыдущих поколений и цену, которую они заплатили за это.

Последние несколько глав неоднозначны, автор пытается найти смысл или инструмент для борьбы с растущим кол-вом информации в мире. Книга была написана в 2011 г. в ИТ мире многое уже изменилось, люди стали лучше фильтровать и воспринимать поток растущий поток информации.

Особенно понравилось переплетение образов литературных произведений магического реализма с существующими онлайн сервисами. ( )
  kmaxat | Aug 26, 2023 |
This was not what I was expecting. From the description given during our book club meeting and the bits of blurb I read, I thought this would be about the flood of information coming our way via the information superhighway. And maybe it would have some thoughts on how to deal with it.

Instead, this tells the history of Information, rather than the information superhighway (although it does include a bit about how we got the latter and what it may mean). And by history, I mean back to the days before writing. It is a very long, and often interesting, tale about the evolution of writing and human thought from the earliest days to the present.

The earlier parts of the book work better than the latter. This may be partially due to being more grounded in technology that is accessible to most people: speaking, writing, telegraph, telephone. Here the sidebars are easy to access and forgive. Later on, the subjects become deeper, more theoretical and harder to follow. I found myself wishing the author would stay more focused and help me understand it better, rather than telling more anecdotes about the scholars and scientists. Even so, I found the book to be thought provoking, although not provocative.

If you ever saw the BBC television show Connections with James Burke, this will seem familiar. If you haven't see that show, but like this book, go and find the show. You will likely find it informative and entertaining. ( )
  zot79 | Aug 20, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
The heart of Gleick’s book is his treatment of the new information theory that Shannon — and computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing, noisily brilliant pioneer Norbert Stuart Wiener and many others — created in the middle decades of the 20th century. But Gleick loops backward to discuss early efforts at messaging and storage, from drum messages to dictionaries, and forward to make clear the massive consequences of what Shannon and the others wrought. ...

Gleick is a technological determinist, in a moderate way. He argues elegantly that the telegraph promoted everything from the weaving of networks to the building of skyscrapers and the creation of a new “telegraphic” style of communication.

It seems a pity, accordingly, that he does not say more about the ways in which information theory and its technical progeny have changed our ways of reading and writing, doing research and listening to music. ...
A highly ambitious and generally brilliant effort to tie together centuries of disparate scientific efforts to understand information as a meaningful concept. For a society that believes itself to live in an information age, the subject could hardly be more important. That the project doesn't fully succeed has more to do with the limits of our understanding than with Gleick's efforts.
added by Shortride | editSlate, Tim Wu (Mar 28, 2011)
Bestselling science and technology writer Gleick (Genius) gives a brilliant, panoramic view of how we save and communicate knowledge-from ancient African drumming to alphabets, the telegraph, radio, telephone and computers-and provides thrilling portraits of the geniuses behind the inventions.

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gleick, JamesAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bearse, M. KristenDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mendelsund, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Anyway, those tickets, those old ones, they didn't tell you where you were going, much less where you came from. He couldn't remember seeing any dates on them, either, and there was certainly no mention of time. It was all different now, of course. All this information. Archie wondered why that was.
— Zadie Smith

What we call the past is built on bits.
— John Archibald Wheeler
For Cynthia
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After 1948, which was the crucial year, people thought they could see the clear purpose that inspired Claude Shannon's work, but that was hindsight.
Chapter 1
No one spoke simply on the drums.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long misunderstood "talking drums" of Africa, James Gleick tells the story of information technologies that changed the very nature of human consciousness. He also provides portraits of the key figures contributing to the inexorable development of our modern understanding of information, including Charles Babbage, Ada Byron, Samuel Morse, Alan Turing, and Claude Shannon.

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