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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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  •  
    Matt LOS ANGELES, CA, United States 03-22-14
    Matt LOS ANGELES, CA, United States 03-22-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Lifevest for those drowning in in4mation overload"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    H. Segal Ithaca 11-04-13
    H. Segal Ithaca 11-04-13 Member Since 2014

    Cornell Faculty

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    "Brilliant, enlightening, beautifully written"
    Would you listen to The Information again? Why?

    Sure - the book unfolds and builds so effectively.


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

    I read Chaos Theory by Gleick after listening to The Information -- another fascinating book. Gleick is the new voice of the history of science.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Gleick's description of how scientists figured out how the talking drums in Africa communicated.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonnie 07-22-13
    Bonnie 07-22-13 Member Since 2004

    I am a voracious audiobook listener. I listen to everything: fiction, business, technology, politics...I need an interesting story, intriguing characters, and a fast pace to keep me interested.

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    "This is my book of the decade!"
    Where does The Information rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is among the top three (of several hundred).


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

    The talking drums stuck with me. I have told that story over and over.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Henry Chatswood, Australia 07-14-13
    Henry Chatswood, Australia 07-14-13 Member Since 2012
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    "An essential read for today's knowledge worker."
    Would you listen to The Information again? Why?

    Yes. I found the content and the narration very good. Given the massive scope and content in this book, I was hooked and the narration was something I felt made it easy to listen to for long periods of time. Listening to the book again is needed to get the timeline of key events and people into order. I think IT workers and any knowledge workers would find this book interesting in understanding the history of information and where information management is going.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The historical characters are brought to life in this book. Even though learning about 'information' may sound boring, this book made it really interesting with all its human stories and conflicts.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ken Eagle Rock, CA, United States 03-16-13
    Ken Eagle Rock, CA, United States 03-16-13 Member Since 2004
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    "Interesting topic turned dry"
    Any additional comments?

    The Information is a terrific idea for a book. Unfortunately what Gleick has produced is much more like a college professor's lecture notes compiled into book form. Very heavy on the history of information, beginning with the development of language, and continuing to the modern day information technologies. There are no conclusions sought, no parables discovered and no insights revealed, just a retelling of historical progression. Even the long epilogue doesn't really serve to enlighten, more just to illustrate the current developments in information theory and information quantum theory - an interesting topic if developed, but it is mostly elaborately defined.

    Only recommended for those an insatiable interest in the topic; everyone else will be put off by the pedantic tone and drone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shonneal 03-04-13
    shonneal 03-04-13
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    "Informative History of Information"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Information to be better than the print version?

    The audio was nice, but there are many parts of the book that are long lists. This is fine in a book, but it was a little tedious to listen to. The long lists are my only complaint about the audio format.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The earlier chapters are more dense and filled with great background. I think these chapters were more informative than the later chapters.


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

    He did a good job of not making the more technical chapters sound like a technical manual. His voice and speed kept the story moving at a good pace.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    This was not a story that has moving moments. That aside, I thought the 2nd chapter was fantastic.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a good book. The first third is really good. The remainder is interesting, but does not illuminate as well. Since this is not a narrative book starting strong and ending weak is not a real shortfall. This book is worth listening to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mackenzie 02-04-13
    Mackenzie 02-04-13
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    "Far too long"

    A disappointment. Far too long and much to much information -- a deluge of information. Needs a good editor.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben SHERMAN OAKS, CA, United States 02-02-13
    Ben SHERMAN OAKS, CA, United States 02-02-13 Member Since 2012
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    "FANTASTIC!! FASCINATING!! Couldn't "put it down""
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    It changes the way you think about EVERYTHING. It explains very complex ideas in a very easy to understand way, and ties everything together very nicely! It massaged my brain the entire time I was listening, it was amazing!


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

    1. 'History is the story of information becoming aware of itself.'
    2. Explaining how 'a chicken is an egg's way of making another egg'
    3. I feel like I actually understand entropy now.


    Which character – as performed by Rob Shapiro – was your favorite?

    N/A


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

    It was so rich that you would be doing the book an injustice to listen to it in one sitting, instead of chewing on it piece by piece. That, and it's too long to listen to in one sitting.


    Any additional comments?

    Can't recommend it enough!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Misha Toronto 01-31-13
    Misha Toronto 01-31-13 Member Since 2012

    Misha

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    "Great book, great narrator"
    What about Rob Shapiro’s performance did you like?

    I listen to a lot of audiobooks, mostly nonfiction. I don't usually post reviews, but I appreciated Rob Shapiros narration so much, I wanted to post something.

    A lot of narrators over-dramatize the text. Or the way they read a sentence makes me think they didn't exactly get what the sentence means. Normally I think of narrators as a sort of necessary evil - an extra voice between the author's words and my ears, and I think the best thing a narrator can do is make themselves sort of disappear from the experience, and not get in the way too much.

    Rob Shapiro's reading of The Information is the first time I've felt that the narrator actually made the book *better*. His reading was really great - he bring just enough drama to the story, and the way he uses emphasis, changes of speed, etc, made the book more interesting and exciting without feeling distracting. It felt like he had a really great grasp of the text. His reading of this book changed my thinking about how nonfiction books can be narrated.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louis Dalmeny, SK, Canada 01-09-13
    Louis Dalmeny, SK, Canada 01-09-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Engrossing"
    Where does The Information rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It ranks among the best.


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

    His description of Turing's Machine, as well as how he connected Godel's Incompleteness Theorems with Information


    What about Rob Shapiro’s performance did you like?

    The reading kept me engaged.


    Any additional comments?

    There were some minor mispronunciations, but these did not detract form the overall experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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