From the bestselling author of the acclaimed Chaos and Genius comes a thoughtful and provocative exploration of the big ideas of the modern era: Information, communication, and information theory.
Acclaimed science writer James Gleick presents an eye-opening vision of how our relationship to information has transformed the very nature of human consciousness. A fascinating intellectual journey through the history of communication and information, from the language of Africa’s talking drums to the invention of written alphabets; from the electronic transmission of code to the origins of information theory, into the new information age and the current deluge of news, tweets, images, and blogs. Along the way, Gleick profiles key innovators, including Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Samuel Morse, and Claude Shannon, and reveals how our understanding of information is transforming not only how we look at the world, but how we live.
A New York Times Notable Book
A Los Angeles Times and Cleveland Plain Dealer Best Book of the Year
Winner of the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
In 1948, Bell Laboratories announced the invention of the electronic semiconductor and its revolutionary ability to do anything a vacuum tube could do but more efficiently. While the revolution in communications was taking these steps, Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon helped to write a monograph for them, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, in which he coined the word bit to name a fundamental unit of computer information. As bestselling author Gleick (Chaos) astutely argues, Shannon's neologism profoundly changed our view of the world; his brilliant work introduced us to the notion that a tiny piece of hardware could transmit messages that contained meaning and that a physical unit, a bit, could measure a quality as elusive as information. Shannon's story is only one of many in this sprawling history of information. With his brilliant ability to synthesize mounds of details and to tell rich stories, Gleick leads us on a journey from one form of communicating information to another, beginning with African tribes' use of drums and including along the way scientists like Samuel B. Morse, who invented the telegraph; Norbert Wiener, who developed cybernetics; and Ada Byron, the great Romantic poet's daughter, who collaborated with Charles Babbage in developing the first mechanical computer. Gleick's exceptional history of culture concludes that information is indeed the blood, the fuel, and the vital principle on which our world runs.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Can you imagine not being able to imagine writing?
I was quite happy with the review that I painstakingly typed into my iPad over the last half hour.
iBooks was also impressed.
I know this because it immediately crashed and erased everything I wrote.
(it devoured my review. beep beep beep beep. it's kind of… a bummer)
So, I suppose you'll have to take my (abbreviated) word for it - the book is very good. read it.
The gist of my original review is this:
Most history books, especially history of science, can't escape the condescension implicit to hindsight.
Gleick avoids it by thoroughly describing thought and perception in a world where the telephone (the dictionary. logic. the written word), is not missing, it's just… unimaginable.
Well written, a great book on a complex subject...
Philosophical version of Gleick
Not typical Gleick. Some interesting history, but too much philosophical waxing. Those who are into this style will appreciate this work as it's expressed as a full symphony on information. Those who want something more concise, will find the work long albeit punctuated with some fascinating history. Because I belong to the latter category, I'm not sure I can recommend this to the fan of Gleick's previous work embodied by his books on chaos, and Feynman.