melissarochell, October 14, 2013 (view all comments by melissarochell)
If you like the idea of relating information to thermodynamics - more specifically, the second law of entropy, you will whiz through this book in one sitting despite its length. In any transformation, a dissipation occurs. Loss in one form of energy is inevitable; in our futile attempts to avoid this loss, we inadvertently gain energy in other forms. Information can be viewed similarly. As it travels through books, mouths, films, etc., it loses something each time. This loss creates room for the unintended gains.
I probably slaughtered the description with my futile attempts at explaining this. Suppose we can call this lesson #1.
Mark Castner, January 30, 2012 (view all comments by Mark Castner)
_The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood_. Dry as the title may sound, this is James Gleick who can catch you up in a subject that you never imagined you would be interested in.
So often today we hear the phrase "information overload." But what is information? Can you define it? Gleick starts with seemingly simple examples of how information is transmitted from one point or person to another, then he leads us through the development of the formal theory of information.
There was a time when the telegraph was considered instantaneous communication. But it was quickly overshadowed by the telephone. Gleick has a dozen more examples and he ends of course with the Internet, Google searches, Twitter, and the like.
I picked up the book because my brother loaned it to me, though I never thought I would finish it. It quickly became a book that I kept coming back to until it was done. If you are interested in how and why technology of all types helps to shape the human world, this is the book for you. And when you are finished, try Nicholas Carr's new book, _The Shallows_. He will explain how technology and information flow reshape the human brain.
Ronald Wortz, January 3, 2012 (view all comments by Ronald Wortz)
Enjoyable to read and thought-provoking from start to finish. A wonderful rumination on the nature of information--its history, what it is, and what it means to us as we live in our world and attempt to make sense of it.
Christian McNeil, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by Christian McNeil)
The best book I've read in quite some time - I found myself needing to absorb each chapter for several days at a time, savoring the densely-packed insights. If you liked this one, I'd suggest following it up with Brian Christian's "The Most Human Human."
Stephen Sinclair, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Stephen Sinclair)
James Gleick's THE INFORMATION an read. Gleick treats telegraph, telephone and television all as stepping stones leading us into the flood, as his subtitle suggests. Media for Gleick are all double edged, enabling and limiting. Gleick is never enthralled by the "unintentional" recording on film or disk, the cough rather than the music. Dada is. Media are NOT the alpha and omega of theory. Gleick's book is not at all a chore to work through. He has plenty for everybody. If you take the extra time to follow him carefully, you will get a solid feel for some of the more complex topics.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"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. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (starred review) (Copyright PWxyz LLC)
"Review A Day"
by Marc Mohan, The Oregonian,
"Recent appearances on the quiz show Jeopardy by the IBM supercomputer dubbed Watson have brought questions of artificial vs. human intelligence to the fore in publications as diverse as the Economist and Entertainment Weekly. The silicon beast's ability to parse natural language full of idiom and metaphor (and to phrase its answers in the form of questions) has been truly impressive. But Watson's feats would not have been possible without instantaneous access to virtually the entire sum of human knowledge via the Internet. Yet these days that's the part we find less awe-inspiring; for many of us, being able to unearth the answer to nearly any factual question in seconds is something we take for granted. Among its many goals, James Gleick's The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood aims to explain how we got here. (Read the entire Oregonian review)
by Library Journal,
"Accessible and engrossing."
by Booklist (Starred Review),
"[A] tour de force....This is intellectual history of tremendous verve, insight, and significance. Unfailingly spirited, often poetic, Gleick recharges our astonishment over the complexity and resonance of the digital sphere and ponders our hunger for connectedness....Destined to be a science classic, best-seller Gleick's dynamic history of information will be one of the biggest nonfiction books of the year."
by Library Journal,
"Accessible and engrossing."
“The author’s skills as an interpreter of science shine...for completist cybergeeks and infojunkies, the book delivers a solid summary of a dense, complex subject.”
by New York Times,
“So ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical that it will amount to aspirational reading for many of those who have the mettle to tackle it... The Information is to the nature, history and significance of data what the beach is to sand.”
by Wall Street Journal,
"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."
by New York Times Book Review,
“A grand narrative if ever there was one...Gleick provides lucid expositions for readers who are up to following the science and suggestive analogies for those who are just reading for the plot. And there are anecdotes that every reader can enjoy...A prodigious intellectual survey.”
“A brilliant, panoramic view of how we save and communicate knowledge...and provides thrilling portraits of the geniuses behind the inventions. Provocative and illuminating.”
“Expertly draws out neglected names and stories from history...Gleick’s skill as an expicator of counterintuitive concepts makes the chapters on logic, the stuff even most philosophy majors slept through in class, brim with tension.”
by The Complete Review,
"Tremendously enjoyable. Gleick has an eye and ear for the catchy detail and observation...offers a broad and fascinating foundation, impressive in its reach. A very good read, certainly recommended."
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