mostly nonfiction listener
verb, Gleick'd, Gleicking
to synthesize large amounts of information and present in an informative, educational and enjoyable format
to connect theories and ideas across disciplines with historical developments
to write artfully about the intersection between science, history and ideas for a popular audience
Reading James Gleick's masterful new book, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Random House), it seems eminently reasonable to propose a new word based on his name.
Gleick's ambitions in The Information are not modest. They are nothing less than a biography of the discipline of information science. Examining, or rather interrogating, the idea of information must have seemed daunting. Where to start, where to end, what to include, what to leave out? This challenge would have stopped most authors, or every other author, before a project like this could commence. In Gleick's hands, the story of information moves from noise to signal, from a subject too big to comprehend to one with a narrative, protagonists, narrative arc, and an unstoppable forward momentum.
From African drumming to Web, Gleick demonstrates how our understanding of what information is has evolved with our material and intellectual cultures. It moves from the early scientists who first defined, quantified and measured information, to the companies that built industrial empires on bits and bytes rather than steel. The Information is a terrific companion to 2010's best work of nonfiction, Tim Wu's The Master Switch. The chapters in both books about the rise of the telegraph and the influence of Bell labs are alone worth the price of admission.
The Information will be one of the top 5 books of 2011. Computer scientists and historians of science will be (or should be) working this book into syllabuses. Invite Gleick to campus, ask him to keynote your conference, give The Information to the humans around you that carry around your favorite brains.
Fascinating history of information. This book illuminates the enormous amount of information behind everything from the dictionary to the human genome. A good part of the book discussed the data that supports many of the laws of physics...most of which went totally over my head. The narration was terrific, which kept me listening even when I struggled to grasp what was being discussed.
Anyone interested in the development of culture, how our brains work, how we organize information would thoroughly enjoy this audiobook. It covers the history of the development of technologies to store information outside our brains, including writing, dictionaries (with fascinating details of how the inventor explained how to find entries using alphabetical order), the telegraph and telephone, computers and the Internet.Mercifully, Gleick doesn't dwell on the significance of the printing press (as a student of web technologies, I'm quite tired of this particular comparison). Instead, he helped me to several brand-new insights about our control, or lack of control, over the information published by and about us.
The breadth and depth of the history of different information technologies and the fascinating personal tidbits and life stories of those who invented and developed them.
I thoroughly enjoyed the biography of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, and how she co-invented the computing machine with Charles Babbage, while pursuing the study of mathematics and being a wife and mother.
I won't heap additional praise on this remarkable book. It is a must-read for anyone interested in . . . almost anything having to do with modern life.
I am adding a note to say that I read The Information in hard copy first, then listened to it, as I frequently do with books I really like. I was surprised by the amount of additional insight and understanding that I gained from listening to The Information. Many of the concepts discussed in the book are elusive and counter-intuitive -- think about the first (or twentieth) time you thought you understood relativity. So, don't be put off by the "should I read it or listen to it" question. The answer is "yes."
And a nod to the narrator, who takes challenging material and makes it more understandable with a pitch-perfect style that neither condescends nor assumes that the reader has a sophisticated background in information theory.
OK, I will add one additional heap of praise on the book itself -- despite the technical subject matter and explanations, Gleick is one hell of a story-teller. This book is full of surprises, which is another way of saying it is jam-packed with information.
Like information itself, there are a few diamonds in the rough, and one can risk overload. I skipped several chapters in this book that didn't quite suit what I was looking for. The author fleshes out things with colorful wording that need little explanation, and some parts on audio are painful to hear (30+ spellings of 'mackerel'). If you want an unabridged history spanning millennia, this is for you. For anyone else, feel free to skip chapters like I did.
There are only tei books in the last 5 years that help understand whhere we are and where we may be headed: What Technology Wants, and The Information.
Easily one of the five best books I've ever read. It is difficult to imagine any non-experts who would not find this work endlessly fascinating and absorbing. Gleick's powers of far ranging synthesis and clear compelling explanation are awe-inspiring.
When they discuss information content and/vs complexity of a message.
First heard of this from Veritasium. Left it in my wish list for months, finally gave it a chance, and loved it. It basically changed the way I think about data, and as a programmer, that says a lot.