The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood Paperback – Mar 6 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2011: In a sense, The Information is a book about everything, from words themselves to talking drums, writing and lexicography, early attempts at an analytical engine, the telegraph and telephone, ENIAC, and the ubiquitous computers that followed. But that's just the "History." The "Theory" focuses on such 20th-century notables as Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing, and others who worked on coding, decoding, and re-coding both the meaning and the myriad messages transmitted via the media of their times. In the "Flood," Gleick explains genetics as biology's mechanism for informational exchange--Is a chicken just an egg's way of making another egg?--and discusses self-replicating memes (ideas as different as earworms and racism) as information's own evolving meta-life forms. Along the way, readers learn about music and quantum mechanics, why forgetting takes work, the meaning of an "interesting number," and why "[t]he bit is the ultimate unsplittable particle." What results is a visceral sense of information's contemporary precedence as a way of understanding the world, a physical/symbolic palimpsest of self-propelled exchange, the universe itself as the ultimate analytical engine. If Borges's "Library of Babel" is literature's iconic cautionary tale about the extreme of informational overload, Gleick sees the opposite, the world as an endlessly unfolding opportunity in which "creatures of the information" may just recognize themselves. --Jason Kirk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Magnificent…this elegant, insightful study reminds us that we have always been adrift in an incomprehensible universe.” –Los Angeles Times, Best Books of 2011
“Grand, lucid and awe-inspiring…information is about a lot more than what human beings have to say to each other. It’s the very stuff of reality, and never have its mysteries been offered up with more elegance or aplomb.” –Salon, Best of 2011
“With his ability to synthesize mounds of details and to tell rich stories, Gleick ably leads us on a journey from one form of communicating information to another.” –Publishers Weekly, Top 100 Books of 2011
“Ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical.” –New York Times
“Gleick does what only the best science writers can do: take a subject of which most of us are only peripherally aware and put it at the center of the universe.” –Time
"The Information isn't just a natural history of a powerful idea; it embodies and transmits that idea, it is a vector for its memes . . . and it is a toolkit for disassembling the world. It is a book that vibrates with excitement." --Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“No author is better equipped for such a wide-ranging tour than Mr. Gleick. Some writers excel at crafting a historical narrative, others at elucidating esoteric theories, still others at humanizing scientists. Mr. Gleick is a master of all these skills.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Extraordinary in its sweep . . . Gleick’s story is beautifully told, extensively sourced, and continually surprising.” —The Boston Globe
“Audacious. . . . Like the best college courses: challenging but rewarding.” —USA Today
“Challenging and important. . . . This intellectual history is intoxicating—thanks to Gleick’s clear mind, magpie-styled research and explanatory verve.” —The Plain Dealer
“Gleick’s skill as an explicator of counterintuitive concepts makes the chapters on logic . . . brim with tension.” —The Oregonian
“The Information puts our modern ‘information revolution’ in context, helping us appreciate the many information revolutions that preceded and enable it. The internet certainly has changed things, but Gleick shows that it has changed only what has already changed many times before. . . . His enthusiam is contagious.” —New Scientist
“Impressively, reassuringly, Gleick’s substantial, dense book comes as close as anything of late to satiating [the] twin demand for knowledge and clarity.” —The Irish Times
“This is a work of rare penetration, a true history of ideas whose witty and determined treatment of its material brings clarity to a complex subject.” —The Daily Telegraph (London)
“The page-turner you never knew you desperately wanted to read.” —The Stranger
“To grasp what information truly means—to explain why it is shaping up as a unifying principle of science—Gleick has to embrace linguistics, logic, telecommunications, codes, computing, mathematics, philosophy, cosmology, quantum theory and genetics. . . . There are few writers who could accomplish this with such panache and authority. Gleick, whose 1987 work Chaos helped to kickstart the era of modern popular science, is one.” —The Observer (London)
“Enlightening. . . . Engagingly assembled.” —Nature
“ Mesmerizing. . . . As a celebration of human ingenuity, The Information is a deeply hopeful book.” —Nicholas Carr, The Daily Beast
“An amazing erudite and yet highly readable account of why and how information plays such a central role in all our lives, Gleick’s The Information is amongst the most profound books written about technology over the last few years.” —TechCrunch TV
“The web Gleick has woven is a rare one, a whole that envelops and exceeds its many parts, which certainly suits his topic. His contribution—too easily underrated in a work that synthesizes the ideas of others—lies in linking fields of science that aren’t connected in a formal sense. By the close of the book you cannot think of information as you might have before.” —Tim Wu, Slate
“[Gleick] is wrestling with truly profound material, and so will the reader. This is not a book you will race through on a single plane trip. It is a slow, satisfying meal.” —David Shenk, Columbia Journalism Review
“Gleick connects the dots that connect information to us, and there are many dots. . . . Here in one volume is the great story of the most important element at work in the world, and its story is well told. I had forgotten what a fantastic stylist Gleick is. It’s a joy to read him talking about anything.” —Kevin Kelly, The Technium
“Packed with the rich history of human thought and communication through the ages.” —PopMatters
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Top Customer Reviews
The central topic remains Claude Shannon's Information Theory and fundamental questions such as "what is information" and "how to measure information". But this books features a very appealing balance between history, short biographies, anecdotes and hard theory. Challenging topics such as Gödel's Theorem, Russel's Paradox, Cryptography, Complexity, etc. are very well articulated, with enough depth and substance and no overly boring technical details or mathematical proofs.
Of particular interest is the chapter on the birth of Cognitive Sciences: The clash between early humanists for whom a strong intuition was good enough to build knowledge upon versus more prosaic scientists who'd insist on testing hypotheses before declaring them good for consumption. There are interesting excerpts from Shannon politely suggesting "more research and less exposition" and Shrödinger advocating for "more rigor over speculation".
Cognitive Sciences are at this crossroads today between fraud and science. Luckily, Gleick reminds us of the time when Biology too used to be a loosely experimental science, and how it became an exact science during the course of the XXth Century.
Not a small book (544 pages) but definitely a Must-Read.
My only quibble with the book is that it really is a flood. This book covers so much ground that at times I felt a little lost trying to get through it all. Generally speaking, the author is a good writer and the pages flew by pretty quickly. But still, there's a lot to try and soak in, especially once one hits the 20th Century and the proper beginnings of a real scientific theory of information. That stuff is pretty complicated for people outside of the field, and the many historical anecdotes thrown in sometimes hindered, rather than helped, comprehension.Read more ›
We will see that every little "bit" of the universe and everything in it is "information." Do not over look the prolog for an encompassing hint as what the book is about. No information related subject is glossed over we het extensive history and in-depth views of what information is, how it was all-around ups and where t is going. I will not go into every detail of you would not need to read the book
Be prepared for over 400 footnotes and an extensive bibliography which will take some time to "look the references up."
So. Things about this book. The title is exactly what the book is about the history of information which is SO DAMN FASCINATING because honestly guys, our ability to comprehend is staggering. How we transmit, perceive and underestimate information is fascinating. Seriously, it is and I don’t think just to people who generally geek out over it. Think about it – what we’re doing, understanding and thinking about not long ago would have been considered actual miracles. We can find out anything, and not only can we, but we now expect it to be easy. We can change, transmit, edit and argue over what information is and how we understand it and those of us who know are scared equally of the struggle to contain and provide access to it.
To be honest again I actually picked up this book back when it was released in 2011 and I didn’t read it then because at the time I was just finishing up my Masters and honestly couldn’t emotionally handle the idea of reading anything else about it. But the thing is, I’m SO glad I found it and read it. I don’t think it’s written in a particularly high style, it was an easy-ish read and I sincerely think it’s worth a grab for everyone. This is cool stuff guys.
Most recent customer reviews
Flawed but the best your going to get I think. Lots of meat but too much garnish.Published 22 months ago by shawn thomas
This is by far my favorite book. At times hard to read (when it gets technical), it is my sacred treasury of ideas. Read morePublished on Feb. 26 2012 by Anastasia Prozorova
`We can see now that information is what our world runs on: the blood and the fuel, the vital principle. Read morePublished on Aug. 7 2011 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
The history of information doesn't sound interesting but it turns out to be interesting indeed in Gleick's capable hands. Read morePublished on June 8 2011 by Rodge
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