The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

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A History, a Theory, a Flood

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. Read more Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item 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.

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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood – James Gleick

Be the first. Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Information society. Information science. Information Kultur Informations- und Dokumentationswissenschaft Information. Informationsvetenskap -- historia.

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The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

Cancel Forgot your password? Sending messages was expensive, so people came up with codes and abbreviations that were probably as bemoaned for spoiling language as cellphone contractions are today. The idea of information pops up in places that seem obvious with hindsight, but which must have taken leaps of understanding at the time.

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Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, talked of how the "information" stored within allows proteins to be built, spawning information-specific words such as "code", "transcription" and "libraries". Gleick peppers his text with foreshadowings of the technological information age we are now all familiar with: the origin of the word "network" in the 19th century, for example; and how "computers" were people before they were machines. The Information is not always easy to digest — I had to read the sections on mathematical information, which are a necessary lead-in to the seminal work of Claude Shannon in , a few times to get the gist — but then the information we share today, in the form of computer bits, is a marvel of complex mathematics, physics and electronics.

Humans have come a long way from developing the first oral language that allowed them to structure and share thoughts. We moved on to writing things down, publishing them, sending them along wires and encoding them into computer switches. The direction has been one of increasing fidelity and certainty, but the process of creating language, writing and the modern programming, network infrastructure and devices that make our computerised world has not been straightforward.

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So the story behind the human mastery of information deserves its day in the sun, in as much detail as possible. The most remarkable thing, perhaps, is just how fast it has happened. History of science Science and nature books Science prizes Royal Society reviews.

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Reuse this content. The "bit," and later the "byte," enter the scene, allowing what was previously unquantifiable to be measured. As forecast by Gleick's opening pronouncement, the subject of genetics gets a chapter in the context of information's physical nature, as do quantum physics, memes, and finally, the engine of information overload that is the World Wide Web. Although not a biography, The Information focuses on a protagonist critical to information theory: Claude Shannon, mathematician, engineer, WWII codebreaker, Bell Labs employee, and author of the first publication with "information theory" in the title.

Working at a time of many advances in the field, Shannon serves as a human representation of the information theory he helped to develop. Other key figures such as Babbage and Turing, as well as Ada Lovelace, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Hawking flesh out the narrative, until the final chapters, in which the actors must be represented by Wikipedia editor code-names or trademarked web URLs. Like such recent works as Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything or any of Simon Winchester's books, The Information is written in a clear, uncomplicated style that doesn't dumb down or flinch at the complexity of its subject matter.

My only complaint about this book is the lack of endnote markers in the text.

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