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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

Critic Reviews

"Accessible and engrossing." ( Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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  • Story

This book is a fascinating journey

As a retired computer scientist, I found this book a fascinating journey. There were many things I knew of but the book wove them together with things I didn't know. However this book was not written for computer scientists but for a much broader audience who want to know how we got from where we started to where we are today.

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Wonderful!

Wonderful collection of stories and observations, great narration. James Gleick writes beautifully about the history and impact of the sciences and the people who make it happen.

  • Overall
  • Pablo
  • Benito Juárez, Mexico
  • 09-10-17

Engaging but with some innacuracies

Any additional comments?

Some of the things in the book about how the Chinese language works seem to be inaccurate. I'm no linguist so all I can do is to refer you to my sources at the end.

- Knowledge about Mandarin does not automatically allow you to read Cantonese even when the symbols are similar.
- He mentions the transition from pictographic to ideographic to logographic but I was left with the idea that Chinese is still ideographic but it is not. Chinese does not work by capturing ideas or meaning.

These inaccuracies are not fatal to the book's intent but I think they should be pointed out nevertheless.

References:

> Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity, Episode 5. A logosyllabic Script http://a.co/cWt24dN

> The answer to these questions is no. Chinese characters are a phonetic, not an ideographic, system of writing, as I have attempted to show in the preceding pages. http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/ideographic_myth.html

> The term "ideogram" is often used to describe symbols of writing systems such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sumerian cuneiform and Chinese characters. However, these symbols are logograms, representing words or morphemes of a particular language rather than objects or concepts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideogram

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insightful and intriguing

was a really interesting journey from the very beginnings of communication, and also a deep, very meta philosophical exploration about the very nature of information and meaning in the universe.
the only reason I gave it 4 stars on performance was that the end stuttered lots (but I had it on 1.5 SPD)

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This must be a masterpiece by any standard.

Audiobook is the perfect way through this magnificent work, and Rob Shapiro is the perfect person to deliver it to you! I bought a hard copy to arrive on completion. What a marvelous treat! The moment the paper copy arrived, it became the favorite book in my small library!

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 04-02-17

Nice History of Information Science

A nice very high level survey of the history and figures involved in information sciences followed by a shallow dive into some basics of information theory. The history was totally enjoyable. The shallow dive was interesting as far as it went, but it was limited and was problematic in audio due to equations and tables that would be easily understood on a page, but nearly incomprehensible, or useless, in audio (like dozens of spellings of the word mackerel or lists of coin flip results). There is no companion PDF which would have helped, at least with the equations. Thus while I would recommend this book, I would recommend a visual version.

On the technical side this book discusses entropy and negative-entropy and its association with information science, but does not do a very good job explaining what this entropy thing exactly is. It goes over the idea once, lightly, and moves on. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to deeply grasp much of the rest of the book without a good understanding of entropy in general and how entropy relates to information. This book is not alone in leaving entropy poorly described. Almost every book on entropy or information theory has the same weakness. The best overview of entropy (physics) I have found is the beginning of Penrose's Cycles of Time. Even with that excellent description of how entropy is calculated, it still does not explain exactly why entropy in important in extracting physical work in physics or information content in information theory.

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Jim's review

Great book and great narration listened to it twice. may listen again in the future for a review update.

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too many boring chapters

I struggle to finish the book
so many chapters have nothing to do with information theory, but with metaphysical discussion I find unrelated and boring. other chapter are too historical.
splitting the book into engineering knowledge and social sciences knowledge would have been more enjoyable

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  • Marcin
  • Radom, Poland
  • 10-11-16

over-digressive and long-winded

Broad content but badly presented in over-digressive and long-winded style; I'm unlikely to buy any other book of this author.

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long listen

Captivating at times, drawn out many others. Very very long and hard to pay attention.