Listens for a living.
The book starts out with a fascinating chapter on the language of African drums (I'd always wondered) and moves into intriguing takes on early information "technologies" like The Telegraph and a visionary inventor who imagined a steam-driven computer in Victorian England. But is gets lost into deeper and deeper algorthmic analysis of information that disconnects from the core idea of communications. Nonetheless, it's often amazing and always thought provoking.
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.
Wow, what an amazing work. The writer has a tremendous ability to connect some spectacular dots revealing a wonderful picture.
No, because it is too complicated
Leave out some of the details. Simplify it.
He made the lives of the characters more interesting
Not a film kind of book
in a book that includes so many German phrases and words it would be nice to have someone check on Rob's German skills
As a fan of history podcasts and world history (check out Dan Carlin's Hardcore History for absolute listening crack cocaine), I often wondered about the internet and it's potential impact on society at large.
Often I had suggested in forums that this topic should be examined as, aside from the printing press, I could think of no example in human history where one invention had so connected the world. Logically I was curious to see what other examples could be found, and if they could offer a predictor for possible outcomes of such connectivity.
While the book doesn't offer any predictions, it does uniformly cover the creation of not just the internet, but the curation of ideas, and the connectedness of man in many different facets.
Hearing the history of mankinds efforts to connect, their soaring successes, the ideas ahead of their time, and the results of all of them at the time, has helped me weed through information overload, and feel more at peace with a world where you cannot turn without hitting a screen, a fact, or a transmission of some kind every moment of the day.
The book was a perfect drink to quench my history of information thirst. AMAZING!
Sure - the book unfolds and builds so effectively.
I read Chaos Theory by Gleick after listening to The Information -- another fascinating book. Gleick is the new voice of the history of science.
Gleick's description of how scientists figured out how the talking drums in Africa communicated.
A must read for anyone interested in science and the culture at large. Also Rob Shapiro voices the book perfectly - a pleasure to hear him read.