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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood | [James Gleick]

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

James Gleick, the author of the best sellers Chaos and Ge­nius, brings us his crowning work: a revelatory chronicle that shows how information has become the modern era’s defining quality—the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world.
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Publisher's Summary

James Gleick, the author of the best sellers Chaos and Ge­nius, brings us his crowning work: a revelatory chronicle that shows how information has become the modern era’s defining quality—the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world.

The story of information begins in a time profoundly unlike our own, when every thought and utterance vanished as soon as it was born. 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. He provides portraits of the key figures contributing to the inexorable develop­ment of our modern understanding of information: Charles Babbage, the idiosyncratic inventor of the first great mechanical computer; Ada Byron, the po­et’s brilliant and doomed daughter, who became the first true programmer; pivotal figures like Samuel Morse and Alan Turing; and Claude Shannon, the cre­ator of information theory itself.

And then the information age comes upon us. Citi­zens of this world become experts willy-nilly: aficiona­dos of bits and bytes. And they sometimes feel they are drowning, swept by a deluge of signs and signals, news and images, blogs and tweets. The Information is the story of how we got here and where we are heading. It will transform readers’ view of its subject.

©2011 James Gleick (P)2011 Random House

What the Critics Say

"Accessible and engrossing." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Edward DUmont, NJ, United States 09-01-11
    Edward DUmont, NJ, United States 09-01-11 Member Since 2006

    Listens for a living.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good start, muddied end"

    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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-10-12
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-10-12 Member Since 2005

    mostly nonfiction listener

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Gleicking "The Information""

    Gleick

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 02-15-12
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 02-15-12 Member Since 2002
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    "in the end, it's all information"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Price San Antonio, TX United States 01-02-12
    Susan Price San Antonio, TX United States 01-02-12 Listener Since 2010

    qotu

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    "This Information Architect/Web Designer Loved It"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Encino, CA, United States 11-06-11
    Robert Encino, CA, United States 11-06-11 Member Since 2003
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    "Worth listening to --even if you've read the book!"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daryle F Williams 06-24-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Astounding!"

    Wow, what an amazing work. The writer has a tremendous ability to connect some spectacular dots revealing a wonderful picture.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    The Talent 10-24-14
    The Talent 10-24-14
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    "A way to bring a subject to life"
    Would you listen to The Information again? Why?

    I never would have read this book, but listening to it made me stay focused on the meaning of the subject in a way that I usually could not.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Information?

    Horses are only what they are not.


    What does Rob Shapiro bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I am not very good at maintaining focus on written words, so yes.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    10^90 bits, or the universe.


    Any additional comments?

    a fantastic book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    beth and chris 09-02-14
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    "my brain hurts in a good way"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Information to be better than the print version?

    yes. i don't think i could turn all the pages.


    What other book might you compare The Information to and why?

    Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software


    What about Rob Shapiro’s performance did you like?

    i never noticed him


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    couldn't've


    Any additional comments?

    i'll buy this book now and keep it on my shelf. i am sure i will want to be reminded of the things inside it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carmen Eicken 04-28-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Better to read the book"
    Would you listen to The Information again? Why?

    No, because it is too complicated


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Leave out some of the details. Simplify it.


    What does Rob Shapiro bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He made the lives of the characters more interesting


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Not a film kind of book


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carsten Schmidt Washington, D.C. United States 03-31-14
    Carsten Schmidt Washington, D.C. United States 03-31-14
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    "positive surprise"
    Would you be willing to try another one of Rob Shapiro’s performances?

    in a book that includes so many German phrases and words it would be nice to have someone check on Rob's German skills


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 47 results PREVIOUS1235NEXT
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  • Christos
    Greece
    12/25/12
    Overall
    "Informative but temporarily boring as an audiobook"

    James Gleick is a guarantee when it comes to popular science. The book is complete and accurate, well balanced and flowing naturally. However, it inevitably contains a lot of formulas and equations, which are not a narrator's favorite language and a listener's best visualization capability.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • jeremy
    London, United Kingdom
    7/9/13
    Overall
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    "Fascinating, compelling and listenable"

    Popular information theory! I really enjoyed this and was inspired to read further in the area. Not too difficult for a beginner (like me) but you do have to pay attention!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    NEWPORT, United Kingdom
    4/10/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating Introduction to Information Theory"

    This book is a fascinating story of the history of Information theory and technology. It can get quite technical, but the journey that Gleick takes you on a generally very well paced and the narration by Rob Shapiro is excellent (although he might want to research how to pronounce a couple of UK placenames!) A worthy winner of the Guardian Science writing prize last year

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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