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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

by James Gleick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,832993,661 (3.94)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 R. 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. 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.
  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. 11
    The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (davesmind)
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» See also 46 mentions

English (94)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (99)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
Loved it enough to read a second time! ( )
  allenclong | Apr 17, 2021 |
Gleick seems to be giving too many stories and narratives, maybe in order to make the book more friendly to lay people. I find most of the narratives to be rambling and tangential. I would have preferred a condensed version (say a third the size?) with the essence of what the author is trying to convey. I'm really interested in the actual content. Dunno how long I can tolerate this before things get interesting. ( )
1 vote thoughtweaver | Dec 28, 2020 |
"Whoop-de-doo. What does it all mean, Basil?" - Austin "Danger" Powers (1999)

broad strokes with some nice connections made, but a bit haphazard for my tastes. good stuff, warrants further ponders. ( )
  stravinsky | Dec 28, 2020 |
A fascinating general-audience overview of the central issue of our time: information overload. More specifically, this is a history of efforts to understand information, from Early Modern dictionaries to Babbage and Lovelace in the Victorian era to the book's centerpiece: the 1940s breakthroughs in information theory by Claude Shannon. This isn't a how-to guide for managing information overload, more of a theoretical background to understand what's going on in the first era of human history where the biggest problem is not too little information but too much. But it's a readable introduction to all sorts of weighty issues (including summaries of key arguments from much more complex books, like Gödel, Escher Bach), and sprinkled with fascinating anecdotes that an inquisitive reader will eat up. Highly recommended. ( )
  dhmontgomery | Dec 13, 2020 |
I'll be honest and say that the math in the book mostly went over my head, but the ideas were fasinating. Gleick not only explains how we got here, but looks at how many different technologies aided in the influx of all this information. He shows he the idea of information has invaded many different scientific areas and how the study of information has largely been seperated from the idea of meaning. Of course, meaning is now finding its way back into the conversation, but this book provides a great explanation of how it got lost in the first place. ( )
  Colleen5096 | Oct 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (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
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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.
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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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